Background: Skeletal muscles express a highly specialized proteome that allows the metabolism of energy sources to mediate myofiber contraction. This muscle-specific proteome is partially derived through the muscle-specific transcription of a subset of genes. Surprisingly, RNA sequencing technologies have also revealed a significant role for muscle-specific alternative splicing in generating protein isoforms that give specialized function to the muscle proteome. Main body: In this review, we discuss the current knowledge with respect to the mechanisms that allow pre-mRNA transcripts to undergo muscle-specific alternative splicing while identifying some of the key trans-acting splicing factors essential to the process. The importance of specific splicing events to specialized muscle function is presented along with examples in which dysregulated splicing contributes to myopathies. Though there is now an appreciation that alternative splicing is a major contributor to proteome diversification, the emergence of improved "targeted" proteomic methodologies for detection of specific protein isoforms will soon allow us to better appreciate the extent to which alternative splicing modifies the activity of proteins (and their ability to interact with other proteins) in the skeletal muscle. In addition, we highlight a continued need to better explore the signaling pathways that contribute to the temporal control of trans-acting splicing factor activity to ensure specific protein isoforms are expressed in the proper cellular context. Conclusions: An understanding of the signal-dependent and signal-independent events driving muscle-specific alternative splicing has the potential to provide us with novel therapeutic strategies to treat different myopathies. © 2018 The Author(s).