Omecamtiv mecarbil (OM) is a positive cardiac inotrope in phase-3 clinical trials for treatment of heart failure. Although initially described as a direct myosin activator, subsequent studies are at odds with this description and do not explain OM-mediated increases in cardiac performance. Here we show, via single-molecule, biophysical experiments on cardiac myosin, that OM suppresses myosin’s working stroke and prolongs actomyosin attachment 5-fold, which explains inhibitory actions of the drug observed in vitro. OM also causes the actin-detachment rate to become independent of both applied load and ATP concentration. Surprisingly, increased myocardial force output in the presence of OM can be explained by cooperative thin-filament activation by OM-inhibited myosin molecules. Selective suppression of myosin is an unanticipated route to muscle activation that may guide future development of therapeutic drugs.