Critically ill intensive care unit (ICU) patients commonly develop severe muscle wasting and impaired muscle function, leading to delayed recovery, with subsequent increased morbidity and financial costs, and decrease quality of life of survivors. Acute Quadriplegic Myopathy (AQM) is one of the most common neuromuscular disorders associated with ICU-acquired muscle weakness. Although there are no available treatments for the ICU-acquired muscle weakness, it has been demonstrated that early mobilization can improve its prognosis and functional outcomes. This study aims at improving our understanding of the effects of passive mechanical loading on skeletal muscle structure and function by using a unique experimental rat ICU model allowing analyses of the temporal sequence of changes in mechanically ventilated and pharmacologically paralyzed animals at durations varying from 6 h to 14 days. Results show that passive mechanical loading alleviated the muscle wasting and the loss of force-generation associated with the ICU intervention, resulting in a doubling of the functional capacity of the loaded vs. unloaded muscles after a 2-week ICU intervention. We demonstrated that the improved maintenance of muscle structure and function is likely a consequence of a reduced oxidative stress, and a reduced loss of the molecular motor protein myosin. A complex temporal gene expression pattern, delineated by microarray analysis, was observed with loading-induced changes in transcript levels of sarcomeric proteins, muscle developmental processes, stress response, ECM/cell adhesion proteins and metabolism. Thus, the results from this study show that passive mechanical loading alleviates the severe negative consequences on muscle structure and function associated with mechanical silencing in ICU patients, strongly supporting early and intense physical therapy in immobilized ICU patients.