A local renin-angiotensin system (RAS) may be suggested by evidence of gene expression of RAS components within the tissue as well as physiological responsiveness of this gene expression. This review will focus on the evidence supporting the existence of the constituent elements of a physiologically functional paracrine muscle RAS. The effect of local skeletal muscle RAS on human exercise performance will be explored via its relation with pharmacological intervention and genetic studies. The most likely configuration of the muscle RAS is a combination of in situ synthesis and uptake from the circulation of RAS components. A reduction in angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) activity reverses the decline in physical performance due to peripheral muscle factors in those with congestive heart failure and may halt or slow decline in muscle strength in elderly women. Genetic studies suggest that increased ACE and angiotensin II (Ang II) mediate greater strength gains perhaps via muscle hypertrophy whereas lower ACE levels and reduced bradykinin (BK) degradation mediate enhanced endurance performance perhaps via changes in substrate availability, muscle fibre type and efficiency.