The aims of this study were to evaluate and explain the individual muscle contributions to the medial and lateral knee compartment forces during gait, and to determine whether these quantities could be inferred from their contributions to the external knee adduction moment. Gait data from eight healthy male subjects were used to compute each individual muscle contribution to the external knee adduction moment, the net tibiofemoral joint reaction force, and reaction moment. The individual muscle contributions to the medial and lateral compartment forces were then found using a least-squares approach. While knee-spanning muscles were the primary contributors, non-knee-spanning muscles (e.g., the gluteus medius) also contributed substantially to the medial compartment compressive force. Furthermore, knee-spanning muscles tended to compress both compartments, while most non-knee-spanning muscles tended to compress the medial compartment but unload the lateral compartment. Muscle contributions to the external knee adduction moment, particularly those from knee-spanning muscles, did not accurately reflect their tendencies to compress or unload the medial compartment. This finding may further explain why gait modifications may reduce the knee adduction moment without necessarily decreasing the medial compartment force.