Skeletal muscle exhibits great plasticity in response to altered activity levels, ultimately resulting in tissue remodelling and substantial changes in mass. Animal research would suggest that the ubiquitin proteasome system, in particular the ubiquitin ligases MAFbx/atrogin-1 and MuRF1, are instrumental to the processes underlying these changes. This review article therefore examines the role of proteasomal-mediated protein degradation in human skeletal muscle in health and disease. Specifically, the effects of exercise, disuse and inflammatory disease states on the ubiquitin proteasome system in human skeletal muscle are examined. The article also identifies several inconsistencies between published human studies and data obtained from animal models of muscle atrophy, highlighting the need for a more comprehensive examination of the molecular events responsible for modulating muscle mass in humans.