McArdle disease (also known as glycogen storage disease type V) is a pure myopathy caused by an inherited deficit of myophosphorylase, the skeletal muscle isoform of the enzyme glycogen phosphorylase. The disease exhibits clinical heterogeneity, but patients typically experience exercise intolerance, that is, reversible, acute crises (early fatigue and contractures, sometimes with rhabdomyolysis and myoglobinuria) triggered by static muscle contractions (e.g. lifting weights) or dynamic exercise (e.g. climbing stairs or running). In this Review, we discuss the main features of McArdle disease, with the aim of providing neurologists with up-to-date, useful information to assist their patients. The topics covered include diagnostic tools-for example, molecular genetic diagnosis, the classic ischemic forearm test and the so-called 'second wind' phenomenon-and current therapeutic options-for example, a carbohydrate-rich diet and carbohydrate ingestion shortly before strenuous exercise, in combination with medically supervised aerobic training of low to moderate intensity.