Respiratory muscle ultrasound is used to evaluate the anatomy and function of the respiratory muscle pump. It is a safe, repeatable, accurate, and non-invasive bedside technique that can be successfully applied in different settings, including general intensive care and the emergency department. Mastery of this technique allows the intensivist to rapidly diagnose and assess respiratory muscle dysfunction in critically ill patients and in patients with unexplained dyspnea. Furthermore, it can be used to assess patient–ventilator interaction and weaning failure in critically ill patients. This paper provides an overview of the basic and advanced principles underlying respiratory muscle ultrasound with an emphasis on the diaphragm. We review different ultrasound techniques useful for monitoring of the respiratory muscle pump and possible therapeutic consequences. Ideally, respiratory muscle ultrasound is used in conjunction with other components of critical care ultrasound to obtain a comprehensive evaluation of the critically ill patient. We propose the ABCDE-ultrasound approach, a systematic ultrasound evaluation of the heart, lungs and respiratory muscle pump, in patients with weaning failure.