Homeostatic and regenerative replacement of skeletal muscle fibers requires the activity of a dedicated pool of myogenic stem cells, called satellite cells, that are activated by muscle injury and act as a renewable source of muscle-forming cells throughout adult life. Satellite cell function is controlled by both intrinsic and extrinsic regulatory cues, whose integration determines the success of muscle regenerative responses. Pathological deregulation of satellite cell function through perturbation of these signaling pathways appears to play an important role in age-dependent deterioration of muscle function and in muscle dystrophic disease. The regenerative activity of skeletal muscle also appears to be tightly linked to metabolism, and alterations in metabolic state can directly influence the activity of these tissue-specific stem cells. Here, we review recent and emerging insights into the molecular and biochemical signals that control satellite cell function and discuss these in the context of muscle degenerative diseases such as dystrophy and sarcopenia. Novel discoveries from this ongoing work bring new opportunities to enhance or restore muscle repair and are likely to facilitate satellite cell transplantation in clinical applications.