Human-centered robotics has received growing interest in low-impedance actuations. In particular, pneumatic artificial muscles (PAMs) provide compliance and high force-to-weight ratio, which allow for safe actuation. However, several performance drawbacks prevent PAMs from being more pervasive. Although many approaches have been proposed to overcome the low control bandwidth of PAMs, some limitations of PAMs, such as restricted workspace and torque capacity, remain to be addressed. This paper analyzes the characteristics and limitations of PAMs-driven joints and subsequently provides an optimization strategy for circular pulleys (CPs) in order to improve joint torque capacity over a large workspace. In addition to CPs, this paper proposes a design methodology to synthesize a pair of variable radius pulleys (VRPs) for further improvement. Simulation and experimental results show that newly synthesized VRPs significantly improve torque capacity in the enlarged workspace without loss of dynamic performance. Finally, the characteristics of CPs and VRPs are discussed in terms of physical human-robot interaction.