There is a significant unmet need for safe, anabolic muscle therapies to treat diseases and conditions associated with severe muscle weakness and frailty. The identification of such therapies requires appropriate cell-based screening assays to select compounds for further development using animal models. Primary human skeletal muscle cells have recently become available from a number of commercial vendors. Such cells may be valuable for studying the mechanisms that direct muscle differentiation, and for identifying and characterizing novel therapeutic approaches for the treatment of age- and injury-induced muscle disorders. However, only limited characterization of these cells has been reported to date. Therefore, we have examined four primary human muscle cell preparations from three different vendors for their capacity to differentiate into multinucleated myotubes. Two of the preparations demonstrated robust myotube formation and expressed characteristic markers of muscle differentiation. Furthermore, these myotubes could be induced to undergo morphological atrophy- and hypertrophy-like responses, and atrophy could be blocked with an inhibitor of myostatin signaling, a pathway that is known to negatively regulate muscle mass. Finally, the myotubes were efficiently infected with recombinant adenovirus, providing a tool for genetic modification. Taken together, our results indicate that primary human muscle cells can be a useful system for studying muscle differentiation, and may also provide tools for studying new therapeutic molecules for the treatment of muscle disease.