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In Real Life, a person's size is not a foolproof indication of their strength. Besides the fact that the short and wiry guy might know kung fu, the size of muscles is also not necessarily proportionate to their efficiency. You can usually expect that pure mass does bring a certain advantage in terms of potential power (to an extent), but it's not a set rule. Leading experts in Broscience theorize that different weight training styles, say bodybuilder vs Olympic weightlifter, cause hypertrophy of different muscle cell components, in this case intracellular fluid (sarcoplasm) vs contractile protein complexes (myofibrils). Multiple training programs exist to increase strength without bulking up, especially for martial artists, who want strength without the limitation of flexibility excessive muscle can create.

Of course, writers like to take this as an invitation to go completely nuts. In fiction, you won't get lucky if you try to gauge a character's strength by their muscles. Seriously, don't try it. You will only embarrass yourself. Betting money is right out.

Note that this trope is specifically about instances in which the person with the seemingly weaker body possesses more actual strength than a muscle-bound opponent. This does not include characters who only win because of other characteristics that make them superior to their enemies, like speed or weapon proficiency. It's a common occurrence in Fighting Games that a Fragile Speedster is considered superior to the Mighty Glacier due to their speed and ability to perform Combos, but they only fit here if they are not only faster, but their attacks actually pack more of a punch as well, in which case "What the hell, game designer? Where's our Competitive Balance?" Say hi to the Lightning Bruiser, or don't.

Contrast Stout Strength, where the character has the muscle, he just has fat on top of it as well, and Muscles Are Meaningful, where the muscles DO make a difference.. When it appears on comic book heroes, it is always a case of Heroic Build.

See also: Bishonen Line, Cute Bruiser, Little Miss Badass, Boobs of Steel, and Amazonian Beauty for specific character design examples. May overlap with The Gift, Hard Work Hardly Works and Waif Fu. See Monstrosity Equals Weakness for a when this, and the other side of it, is case across the board.

Examples of Muscles Are Meaningless include:


Anime & Manga

  • Dragon Ball, of course. Soon justified by ki energy, but even before that, Goku could destroy rocks as a child when he was still the size of a watermelon and had stubby arms like a baby.
    • This actually addressed as a plot point in the Cell Saga. Vegeta and Future Trunks had reached a certain ascended version of the basic Super Saiyan, but while it was an insane increase of power, the sheer muscle mass slowed them down too much to actually land a blow on their opponent.
    • There's also very early on the contrast between Vegeta and Nappa. Nappa, who's huge and brawny, is less than half as strong as the short Vegeta.
    • Probably the most striking example, though, is Mr. Satan, who's legitimately strong, extremely muscular, and has a Badass Mustache, but happens to be in a series where ki power beats muscle power ten times out of ten.
    • Even if you assume that the protagonists have magic muscles, it hardly explains how a character like Gohan doesn't accidentally snap his normal girlfriend, Videl, in half, unless your ki-induced strength has to be channeled.
      • Videl is actually one of the straightest examples of this, as even before she learned basic ki manipulation she was at least as strong as her father Mr. Satan, despite being a slender teenage girl with none of his huge muscles. As for why Gohan doesn't accidentally snap her in half, it's probably for the same reason real-life weightlifting champions can pet a kitten or pick up an egg without crushing it. Controlling your strength to use only the amount you want to for the task at hand is not difficult.
    • The DBZ characters are, however, very muscular for the most part. It turns out that anything that boosts your ki energy will probably also build muscle mass. Really, once you start blowing up planets with mystical ki energy, physics can go out the window and nobody will care.
  • The complete dependency on Shinsoo in Tower of God. It is the one thing defining power and musclemass really means absolutely nothing. Not only does the Square-Cube Law come into effect, but being big is an entirely different problem when in some areas of the Tower the Shinsoo, which acts as air surrogate, is as dense a 4°C water. Thus character with high Shinsoo resistance and control like Baam and Yuri have a huge advantage.
    • Yuri and her clan, the Ha, is also a traditional case of being physically very strong while having a fairly feminine frame. Other characters, especially the damage dealing Fishermen can strengthen their body temporarily while inducing Shinsoo into their body.
  • The CP9 of One Piece have the huge guy Blueno, but he's one of the weaker ones. By far the most powerful in the team is the lean (though tall) and attractive Knight Templar Rob Lucci. And then there is, of course, Luffy himself, who is one of the strongest people alive and has arms like sticks. Funnily enough, there was at least one occasion where he flexed his arms to reveal muscles larger than his head.
    • Luffy's small arms are justified since he is made of rubber. Zoro, on the other hand, is just plain crazy. When he flexes, his arms become the size of his torso. When relaxed they are normal size. On the other hand, Sanji's kicks can smash down buildings but he's pretty consistently a bean pole.
    • The same also applies to the admirals, Kizaru being the most prominent example; they are among the most powerful of antagonists, but all three are very thin for their height.
      • In the case of Kizaru, however, there's a justification for this. He can move at the speed of light -- with that sort of power you're always going to hit hard regardless of how much muscle you have, if only due to sheer speed.
    • Before Alvida ate her Devil Fruit she had decent Stout Strength (being able to wield a large iron club), but she's still strong after eating even though it made her much skinnier (and more attractive).
    • Also, Robin is a tall, slight woman with the strength of an above-average athlete, which is pretty weak compared to some of the monsters of the series. However, she easily makes up for it with her Devil Fruit ability, which allows her to break your back effortlessly.

 Robin: Power. Speed. Against me, they mean nothing.

  • Yu Yu Hakusho deals with this a lot. In one of the first arcs, it's specifically shown that physical strength is different (and weaker) than spiritual strength. If you see someone who is muscular in a fight, chances are he'll be relatively weak (with the exception of Younger Toguro). Particularly addressed in the final Tournament fight, when Yusuke reveals his Spirit Cuffs, and the flashback to when he got them shows him trying to tear them apart, to no avail. Genkai comments that it measures spiritual energy, NOT physical, so knock it off.
    • In another sense, as various characters get stronger they don't gain much in physical size; they retain the same basic body style that they start the show with.
  • Hunter X Hunter (by the same Mangaka) has even more fun with this- the two Kid Hero protagonists are skinny 12-year-olds- and at the start of the series, Killua can bench somewhere in the range of 16 tonnes. A later chapter gleefully lampshades this- the two of them decide to go work out to keep their edge. The next panel has them waving around barbells with weights larger than their entire bodies in a rather offhanded manner while casually conversing about their current job, as a gymful of goggle-eyed bodybuilders looks on.
  • In Fruits Basket, both Yuki and Kyo are skinny bishounens... but they have the strength to practically kill each other and destroy Shigure's house. Also, Kagura is an innocent-looking girl, but can rip out trees by their trunks and swing them around as weapons.
    • Natsuki Takaya (the artist) actually acknowledges this in an aside from the manga: by all rights, the characters should be more muscular-looking than they are, and it's mainly a design preference that they're not (skinny bishounen and cute girls). In addition, Kagura likely derives her inhuman strength from somewhere else.
  • In Bleach, Yammy, the 10th and 0th Espada is physically the largest, yet is also the weakest out of the Espada.
    • In fact, this trope can be seen many times through out Bleach. This is due to the fact that characters in Bleach use spiritual energy to fight. A character may literally be a Giant, yet may be easily defeated due to their low spiritual pressure. This can be illustrated by Hollows. Gillian Class Hollows are giants, yet are the weakest class of menos. Subsequent classes are more compact, but much more powerful.
    • This also extends to the spiritual. Captain-class shinigami compact their zanpaktos, and while they look small (compared to Grand Fisher's), they are more powerful.
    • Most obviously present in tiny 11th Vice-Captain Yachiru, the only shinigami that might be more terrifying than Kenpachi. She's also able to lift Kenpachi over her head and carry him as if he were an empty cardboard box, despite the fact that he's twice her height and six times her weight.
    • Nnoitra is very skinny, but is clearly much stronger than Grimmjow, and can go toe-to-toe against Kenpachi.
  • This is all over the place in the Tournament Arc of Mahou Sensei Negima. Just of the eight of eighty we see get through the qualifying royales seven of them are either a slender young woman, a child, or both (physically, at least), and the other one that was an adult male wasn't at all buff. All of them completely trash all but one of the other divisions, which consisted of eighteen other people which were nearly entirely heavily muscled (if not flat-out gigantic) adult men. Many of them weren't even using any special powers like ki or magic. Anyone of above-average size or build who isn't Jack Rakan exists solely to get their ass kicked by someone skinnier and more attractive for the sake of said person looking cool.
  • Present in Fushigi Yuugi. Even with all the superpowered warriors, there isn't a single highly muscular character. What else would you expect from a shoujo Reverse Harem anime?
    • A specific case of this is Nuriko, whose power is super strength, yet he's skinny enough to convincingly crossdress as a woman.
  • Kyohei and Sunako from The Wallflower. Both are very waifish, and both can easily beat down crowds of enemies when they need to.
  • L from Death Note, who is 5'8" and weighs 110 lbs, is quite strong, and fights using capoeira. He even states at one point in the series, while in a serious fight with Light Yagami, that he is stronger than he looks.
  • Soul Eater uses the combination of a healthy 'mind, body, and soul' to define strength and point out that it's not purely down to physical power. Characters who are shown to be extremely strong physically do not always appear as such; Maka and Kid for example, though the latter has the excuse of being a god. It doesn't hurt to be muscular, however, as characters like Black Star (especially) and Stein show.
  • Inuyasha is pretty trim under that kimono, but he can uproot large trees and use them as weapons, pick up and carry a bolder larger than he is tall, etc. Even for a hanyo, InuYasha is incredibly strong, stronger than many full Youkai.
    • His brother Sesshomaru counts as well. The very first thing we see Sesh pull in the manga is placing his hand lightly on a big, muscular man's head... and ripping it clean off without even a hint of effort. He's not any less muscular than Inuyasha (both of them do have some muscle tone, which is more than can be said of many Bishonen), but he isn't any more so, either.
    • Word of God states that Sesshoumaru's arm strength alone is about as strong as Inuyasha in full demon mode. We're talking about all the strength in a single arm here.
  • Somewhat averted, somewhat played with in Naruto. While some characters use special chakra-based abilities to have Super Strength (just look at Sakura and her teacher, Tsunade (whose trademark ability is her raw strength). Barely a muscle on their slim bodies (except for their bosoms), but they can beat down mooks fifty times their size!), the characters known for being physically strong are usually HUGE. A, Killer Bee, and Chouji come to mind. There ARE exceptions, like Rock Lee (who is much stronger than his muscles would suggest, and DOESN'T use chakra to make up for it).
    • This fellow from Yahoo.com answers the same question: "Why is it that most male anime characters are dead skinny yet amazingly strong?"
    • Sakura and Tsunade's hard hitting explicitly doesn't have anything to do with muscles, as it's actually them gathering chakra into their fists and blasting it all out on impact. Most of their actual physical ability involves heightened agility to avoid getting hit. When it comes to raw physical strength, the strongest tend to be pretty big guys (Choji and his father, Jirobo, Jugo, the Raikage) or use some form of body modification (Kakuzu, cursed seal user, Naruto and Jiraiya in Sage Mode) except for Mighty Guy and Rock Lee, who tend towards the "defined, but lean" in the style of Bruce Lee (see below) as they value both speed and strength. It's outright (and hilariously) subverted when Sasuke (who's really rather scrawny) tries to kick Killer Bee (who is quite large, tall, and muscular)... and it does absolutely nothing.
      • However, in one of the first filler episodes Sakura rips up a ship's mast and uses it to beat the bad guys off the vessel. This is before she began her training with Tsunade, you understand. It was a big ship.
    • Naruto himself at one point puts on display a good example of this trope when he bodyslams the Nine-Tailed Demon Fox! Bear in mind that this fox is large enough that it can smash a mountain by swinging one of its tails.
  • Kenichi the Mightiest Disciple has Master Koetsuji Akisame. He's the smallest and skinniest of the masters (The other male's are all about 8' tall and have muscles the size of their heads)and just looks pretty fit. He's actually one of the flat out strongest masters due to the fact that he spent most of his life completely remodeling his body so that he has absolutely no wasted mass on him. Kenichi himself is going through similar training. He looks like a pretty fit teenager, who just so happens to be described as feeling like he's made out of lead and doing such feats as stopping a giant boulder and doing a handstand while in a leglog from a much beefier opponent.
    • Akisame is only the smallest and skinniest if you somehow COMPLETELY ignored Kensei Ma, who's a much truer example of this trope. The man is probably barely 4 feet and is the eldest of the masters (barring the Old Master Hayato himself), making him very scrawny. He seems to be of the Weak but Skilled category, but he's capable of delivering devastating punches at close range, with apparently barely any technique involved.
    • Kenichi isn't really an example. He's the average high school student height, but he's hardly skinny looking.
  • Of course, Saint Seiya has this in spades. Cassios and Docrates, two enormous towers of sheer muscle (Shayna's disciple and one of the Pope's acolytes, respectively) are humbled by skinny 15 year-olds Seiya and Hyoga. Most noticeable in that Cassios' fist is as large as Seiya himself, but the latter can easily stop Cassios' punch with his open palm. Without even using his Cosmo (or leverage, for that matter.)
  • The Prince of Tennis: Toyama Kintaro was twelve years old, not even five feet tall... and was able to drive a golf ball farther than a college student with a 5-iron that he bent with his bare hands.
  • Who's the strongest character in Durarara? Is it Simon, the huge black Russian sushi tout known to be capable of lifting men his size with one hand? Nope, it's Shizuo the skinny, blonde ex-bartender. A skinny, blonde ex-bartender that can throw vending machines four stories high. This is due to the fact that, beyond lacking the mental limiters most people have to keep them from ripping their body apart via overexertion, most of Shizuo's muscular structure is so dense and compact that most bladed weapons have trouble penetrating it beyond a centimeter.
    • It's stated in the anime that Simon is better that Shizuo in a one on one fight. He's the only one who can stop Shizuo's rampages, albeit with some trouble; he does it and comes out with some bruises and a black eye. Shizuo is stated to be better in a street fight however, due to an advantage in speed and his nigh invulnerability.
      • His body is THAT awesome because he literally broke every single bone in his body multiple times in his youth, due to the super strength and Hair-Trigger Temper. After breaking so many times, his bones won't break anymore. On top of that, his pain receptors broke down from overburdening, and he feels no pain. In one of the last episodes, he got shot in the back and in the hip from behind, and thought he slipped in the mud. When he realized what happened, he got up and walked halfway across Ikebukuro to Shinra's house to have the bullets removed.
  • Pokémon Special: Bruno of the Kanto Elite Four is a muscled powerhouse who trains alongside his Pokémon, always searches for the next big fight (Lorelei interferes when he faces Red, much to his chagrin before he gets brainwashed), and poses the Kanto Dex Holders no end of trouble. His disciple, Hoenn's Brawly, looks to have half the muscle he does, but has the same level of strength, which he pools with his determination to outmuscle Mack's Mind Rape when Groudon goes on a Magma-assisted rampage in Mossdeep.
    • On the subject of Gym Leaders, Chuck and Bruno are on the big end, the former knowing a vast array of martial arts and takes up the same Fighting Gym Leader habit of training with his Pokémon. In case you think he sucks as a teacher, one of his disciples is Green, who while not demonstrating his talents in martial arts on-panel is hardly a slouch at commanding Pokémon. And if Brawly wasn't "scrawny" enough, then Maylene of Sinnoh manages to top that, being a skinny teenaged Pettanko who can cross blows with a Riolu - which, as we know, grows into Lucario, which is (literally) Made of Iron. This troper sees bad things happening to Team Galactic should she have to get involved.
    • Many of the Dex Holders themselves manage to perform feats of physical excellence, but the majority of them are a result of being drunk on Heroic Resolve. And then there's Sapphire, whose feats of strength and heroism speak for themselves.
      • Hell, even Blue may be stronger than she appears. At age 11, she once held onto her flying Jigglypuff with one hand while the other arm was hoisting up Red.
  • Hareta from Pokémon Diamond and Pearl Adventure is absurdly powerful for a kid his age but has no muscles (probably considering he's prepubescent). At one point he flipped a Rhyperior, which is over 600 pounds and a rock Pokemon.
  • In Pretty Face, Rando was in a coma for a year and his muscles shrank for not using them. Strangely enough, despite this, his physical strength didn't go down at all.
  • The strongest characters in Aiki are pretty muscular... but only on the middle of the size scale. The strongest women barely have any. The trope itself is invoked when Joukyuu informs Hot Amazon Hou Mei of why she's doing badly in a fight against an opponent who's much smaller - she's too muscular and it's slowing her down. She leaves for a time to train, returning noticeably slimmer and much faster.
  • Played straight twice in Shaman King, first with the characters itself. Being a big guy in Shaman King is meaningless since power in the series is all about Mind Over Matter, or more precisely soul over matter. Secondly with the spirit powers itself. During most of the series, when a character gained a power-up, they would start to summon building-sized spirit Battle Aura called O.S.. Then during the final part of the series, the Big Bad says that making those gigantic things was pure waste of power. In the end they fight with much more powerful, yet much smaller O.S.-es.
  • The mages in the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha universe are extremely strong physically, but it doesn't show much in their physique. In the beginning of season two, the nine-year old Nanoha protected herself from attacks from both sides, holding the shields apart with her bare hands in a Star Wars-like double-Advancing Wall of Doom manner. Both attacks had the momentum to blow a hole in an average building and eventually made Nanoha sink ankle-deep into the concrete floor. And that's a nine-year old girl with no excessive muscle mass. Powerhouses like Signum could probably punch holes in reinforced concrete with just those sleek, sexy hands of theirs. (This probably has to do with the series' target demographic, which prefers cute girls to muscular warriors.)
  • Claymore has this in spades. All Claymore warriors are lithe killing machines powered by Yoma blood inside them. The only exception is Undine, but it is revealed that she built up the muscle mass on purpose in attempt to improve her own self-confidence. In the flashbacks, she is shown with her original, (seemingly) frail constitution.
  • Project A-ko: The eponymous Eiko Magami looks like an ordinary schoolgirl but is a Person of Mass Destruction.
    • Justified: she's the daughter of Superman and Wonder Woman. No, really.
  • Yakitate!! Japan's Azuma Kazuma, he may not be as muscular as his other two teammates (Kawachi and Suwabara). But his bread baking skills beat his opponents into submission.
  • Rurouni Kenshin:We have Sanosuke, a lean hand-to-hand combat fighter. Yet he's strong enough to lift a heavy zanbato and clash with muscular monk Anji. Anti-hero Saito, who can beat Sanosuke into a bloody pulp, and Shishio, who has enough power to send Sanosuke flying, are also quite slender.
    • Averted with Seijuro Hiko, Kenshin's master, who seems a tall and slender man... until he takes off his coat, revealing a huge muscled body. Word of God says that some fangirls were disappointed at him not being a Bishounen.
  • In Ranma One Half, the only two characters who have really visible muscle are Genma Saotome (who is not only a Dirty Coward, but actually comes off as Stout Strength and Acrofatic because his muscles and baggy gi make him pretty barrel-shaped) and Pantyhose Taro... the latter only when he takes on his Mix-and-Match Critters super-form (which, admittedly, outclasses everyone that isn't an Old Master.) Everyone else is capable of fits of Super Strength while being, at most, leanly toned looking. Even Ryoga, while thicker-chested then Ranma, still looks pretty scrawny with just a T-shirt on.
  • Averted humorously in Stand Alone Complex when Batou, jokingly, tells the Major she should switch to a male prosthetic body like his because it would give her more strength. She challenges him on the spot and he brings his fists up ready to spar. Knowing that he's correct, she hacks his brain and makes him punch himself out.
    • The joke here being that the Major doesn't need more strength when she has her far more effective brain.
  • Pretty much all Magical Girl Warrior anime, from Sailor Moon to Pretty Cure, give their heroines Super Strength upon Transformation Sequence without significant changes to muscle mass or tone.
  • In Rosario to Vampire, Inner Moka is capable of taking down opponents that are larger and more muscular than her with ease. Her sister Kokoa can lift and swing a huge mace seemingly without any effort. Justified as it is a vampire's special ability: they can turn their Yoki, which is already pretty high being S-Class Youkai and all, into physical strength.
  • Black Lagoon: Dutch, the Lagoon Company's leader, is a fairly muscular guy but gets easily overpowered by the thinner Roberta. Ultimately, the much more trim Revy is the only match for her.
  • In Koihime Musou very few characters are drawn muscle-bound but some of the smallest characters are among the strongest. Chouhi is only as tall as Kannu's chest but can carry a battering ram plus the half dozen or so people using it with one arm. While suffering from a cold. Kyocho is similarly a very small-sized character with no visible muscle but uses a kendama with a huge metal ball that must weigh as much as she does in combat. Both easily qualify as Pintsized Powerhouses.
  • Just about every single Shoujo Demographic that involves action, including the male characters and even in series that don't have the supernatural excuse. You can be a pretty boy and still have a good amount of muscle but not in shoujo.
  • In Fairy Tail, size and muscle mass is hardly ever an indicator of strength, barring a few exceptions like Gildarts. The incredibly thin Sol was able to overpower Elfman with ease, and so could Mirajane.
  • Ivica Tanović, the commander of the Pied Piper Team in Eureka Seven AO, is an extremely tall and imposing man, but still looks awfully skinny for the Super Strength feats he routinely displays.


Comic Books

  • Extremely common in superhero comics, for obvious reasons. By way of an example, Batman is a large and powerfully built man. Wonder Woman is a slim and athletic woman (Depending on the Artist), obviously a lot lighter than him. Guess which one can bench press a tank.
    • Batgirl is noted in the comics as being far stronger (and faster) than even a highly athletic girl her size should be. This is mostly down to her training.
    • Averted with some super-strong heroines; She Hulk and Power Girl (to name two) are typically drawn with a body-builder's level of muscularity, being among the rare believers in the idea that just because you already have super-strength doesn't mean you can't benefit from pumping some iron to get even stronger.
      • But much like Wonder Woman, it depends on the artist. There are times She Hulk is drawn without muscles.
    • So common in fact that when Kara Zor-El returned in 2004, writers were easily able to tease the fan base with the idea that the slender 16 year old girl might be stronger than her full grown powerfully built cousin Superman. Turns out, he just holds himself back due to living his whole life in a world made of cardboard.
  • Rogue is drawn as an athletic woman, but rarely with muscles anywhere approximating what she can do. Justified in that she stole the strength powers from another hero.
  • Runaways's Molly Hayes. Or "Princess Powerful". Just do not call her "Bruiser". Her strength appears to be psionic in nature, based on the Battle Aura matching the visual cue of her parents' telepathic abilities.
  • Spider-Man possesses incredible strength but also possesses a thin physique that earned him the nickname "Puny Parker".


Fan Works

  • Paul in With Strings Attached absolutely exemplifies this trope. He looks like a skinny normal guy (he lost some weight during his “depression era”), but don't get into a tug of war with him....
    • John qualifies when he's wearing his illusion cloak, which makes him look like his normal skinny Earth self.


Film

 Morpheus: Do you believe that my being stronger or faster has anything to do with my muscles in this place?

Neo: No.

Morpheus: You think that's air you're breathing right now?

Neo:...!

  • The second live action Transformers movie has Optimus Prime dominating Megatron in battle, despite Prime being smaller and getting beat up by the latter in the first film. Justified in that Prime was distracted by his fear of collateral damage in the first film, whereas he can cut loose with no problems in the second.
  • Sherlock Holmes, though not in the same manner as listed below. Twice, Holmes is able to take on people much, much stronger than him by calculating where the best places to hit/slap them are, going through the scenario in his head beforehand.
    • Doesn't work quite so well with the big French guy, who wipes the floor with Sherlock. It takes two to bring him down.
  • In Kung Fu Panda, all of the Furious Five seem to have about the same amount of strength. It seems semi-plausible (Tigress is the biggest and seems to be the strongest), until you get to Mantis, who is an actual praying mantis. He has no problem throwing Po around or holding up the rope bridge that all the others plus Tai Lung are fighting on.
  • In How to Train Your Dragon, Astrid doesn't seem to have much muscle mass at all, and yet she can still hurl giant hammers with enough force to knock out dragons.
  • In The Guardian, a movie about the US Coast Guard's rescue swimmers, one of the candidates is extremely well built and is washed out on the first day due to cramping up during a swim. Kevin Costner's character dismisses him with a comment that muscle doesn't float.


Literature

  • Lampshaded and Subverted Trope in Robert Asprin's Myth Adventures - Guido is getting the "size doesn't matter in a fight" lecture from a drill sergeant, and muses that this only works if the little guy is very skillfull while the big guy is very UN-skillful. He then proceeds to break the arm of the drill instructor, who had been planning to use him as a tackle dummy.
  • In Power of Two (part of the "Fine Structure" series at Things of Interest), it's noted that people who get superpowers don't look any different, and the narrator muses that "We don't even know if you gain anything from working out when you have these abilities".
  • Justified in Codex Alera by Earth crafting, which is explicitly noted to provide strength but not extra mass, and Air crafting (though if it isn't backed up by Required Secondary Powers it can be quite painful) which provides speed, meaning one can make like the Flash.
  • Sherlock Holmes is tall and wiry, but he is also extremely strong. After a burly man threatens him in "The Speckled Band" by bending an iron poker, Holmes casually straightens it.
  • Ditto Erast Fandorin. Except that he has the justifying bonus of having been trained in ninjutsu for six years, meaning he can kill pretty much anything with his bare hands while hiding his strength under frail, bishie looks..
  • Redwall: Continuity Drift makes it hard to tell whether the animal characters are supposed to be human-sized, animal-sized, or somewhere in between, but it's pretty clear that animals which are smaller in the real world tend to be at least a little smaller within the canon than animals which are larger in the real world. It seems to be a rule that the small cute animals are the good guys and therefore more likely to win in any given fight. Mice versus rats is okay, but when a squirrel can fight a wolverine to a standstill it looks a tad odd.
    • The size difference between animals appears to have decreased between books. The original had Cluny vs. Matthias and Cluny was far larger, and Constance was even bigger than he was, indicating a roughly accurate size difference that continued through the early books. About halfway through the series or so the difference seems to have changed from a normal person fighting a T. Rex to a smallish person fighting a tiger or something. Actual physical strength doesn't appear to be different except in extreme cases like badgers etc.
  • Elves and Riders in the Inheritance Trilogy are often capable of feats of strength (and speed and magic too) beyond that of most humans, including humans with way bigger muscles. Eragon himself notes this in Brisingr by comparing his muscles to his cousin Roran's much larger muscles.
  • Pippi Longstocking is perhaps the most famous example of this trope in literature. She can lift one of the area's strongest men... when the man is lifting 100-lb weights, and Pippi herself, as the article's image shows, has ridiculously skinny limbs.
  • This trope is also used in the Dragaera novels. Dragaerans, while admittedly averaging about a foot taller than normal humans (or "Easterners", as they call them--they refer to themselves as "human"), tend to be much slimmer and trimmer as well. The only real exceptions are a few members of certain houses, like the Orca. Nevertheless, Dragaerans are quite a bit stronger than Easterners across the board.
  • First played straight in Graceling, as Katsa's extreme talent, flexibility, and speed make her too Badass for strength to matter much, but subverted once she meets another Graced fighter (though of course Po's Grace is a bit more complex than that) and realizes her size and relative weakness do disadvantage her.
  • The Doctor, in the Doctor Who Eighth Doctor Adventures, can easily carry a grown man around, has threatened one of his companions with the fact he could break any bone in said companion's body (he was really stressed out at the time), and once stabbed a guy with his thumb. He's 5'8", "slight", and "bony".

 'Except that it took someone very strong to kill Macleb,' Cage said. 'To me that means a Canvine.'

The Doctor shook his head. 'Not necessarily.'

'Oh?'

The Doctor turned and looked her dead in the eye. 'Would you say I'm very strong?' he asked.

This seemed to amuse her. 'Not really.'

But the Doctor was serious. 'Strange,' he said quietly, 'because I could break you in half as easy as sneeze.'

There was silence for a moment. Awkward silence.

    • The Seventh Doctor in the Virgin New Adventures, while not being as physically active as his older counterpart, is often described as having an uncanny strength, and the grip of a bear, when need be. He's 5'6" and of a small build.
  • Sisterhood series by Fern Michaels: Yoko Akia. She is 4 feet 8 inches (1.46304 metres) tall, she weighs 90 pounds (40.82 kilograms), and just about everything about her is tiny. She can flatten just about anybody bigger, more muscular and weightier than her in a fight and her fellow Sisters and Vigilantes call her "the 90-pound stick of dynamite"! In the book Lethal Justice, Yoko (who supposedly has a brown belt) spars against Harry Wong, who is likely a Bruce Lee Expy, has a black belt, is bigger than her, has more muscle than her, and could supposedly flatten her without difficulty. Instead, the little "porcelain doll" (as Harry described her) ended up pinning him to the ground. Harry afterwards admits to Jack Emery that that was the first time he was ever pinned to the ground!
  • Mistborn, those who can burn pewter gain Super Strength but no muscle mass, Vin, a 5 foot nothing skinny girl can beat the living crap out of several large men at once when burning pewter.
  • Stated in The King Killer Chronicles with the matriarchal Adem culture of warrior-philosophers. The hero's female mentor states that women are better fighters then men because they are more moral and therefore understand their fighting style better. The hero asks about men's superior reach and strength, which the mentor dismisses as irrelevant. Since Adem are far and away the most skilled warriors in the world, their views are apparently justified.


Live Action TV

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a human magically endowed with demon-like physical strength to balance out the super-strength of demonic opponents. While Buffy herself is tiny, some of her predecessors are physically larger with basically the same power level. Some Wizards did it.
    • Vampires in this series are like that as well.
    • Considering that the super strength of both Slayers and demons is mystically endowed size doesn't matter at all. The strength is clearly not in the muscles.
    • Also true of Connor in the spin-off Angel. He is very thin and has no noticeable muscles but has enhanced speed and agility, lightning fast reflexes, and can punch a demon across a parking lot without even trying.
  • Discussed in Corner Gas when Brent explains to Lacey that arm size doesn't directly translate to arm wrestling victory... well, unless they're Lacey-small.
  • Niki/Jessica Sanders, Knox, and now Mohinder on Heroes.
    • There was also the soldier who was injected with the Super Serum.
  • Elliot from Scrubs has "fingers like biceps", and can force a nearly-closed elevator door back open with her pinky finger. Not bad for a gal from an orchard in Connecticut.

  J.D. (thinking): "Oh no! Elliot has the pinky-strength of a rock-climbing jazz pianist!"

    • She is also shown to have absurdly strong thighs, to the point that she can break lunch trays with them.
  • Babylon 5's Minbari, memorably when Lennier picks someone up by the throat and holds them with his arm held straight and level and not bracing himself. All whilst calmly explaining that although looking much like a human he really is an alien.
  • The Doctor is occasionally shown to have this ability. The Fourth Doctor once karate-chopped a brick in half, and the Eighth dented a heavy steel door in the process of knocking it off its hinges.
  • Star Trek: Vulcans (and their kin, the Romulans and the Remans) are twice as strong as humans - Spock has effortlessly wiped the floor with Kirk at least two times in the series. And Data is an android with the strength of 10 men.
    • Data's strength is shown when a Klingon tries to challenge him in their version of arm-wrestling (B'aht Qul). Data effortlessly beats him, at which point the angry Klingon tries to headbutt the android. Data simply points out that his skull is made out of the same stuff they make starship hulls.
  • In Friends, Monica is noted to be "freakishly strong", despite her size.
  • X-5 series transgenic supersoldiers in Dark Angel. While Zack is fairly bulky, Max and Alec have roughly the same level of enhanced physical prowess.
  • In Chuck, a new version of the Intersect computer can upload martial arts skills into a user's brain, giving guys with Geek Physiques the ability to beat up trained soldiers without any change in muscle size.


Professional Wrestling

  • Pro wrestling usually averts this trope, but when WWE had The Hurricane, he would often chokeslam wrestlers several times his own size. (The chokeslam normally being reserved for huge wrestlers.) Hey, he is supposed to be a Superhero, after all.
  • There was also He Who Must Not Be Named (Chris Benoit). Part of his "Silent But Violent" persona was that he was ridiculously strong for his size and able to perform power moves on wrestlers literally twice his size.
  • In one of his books Mick Foley once wrote that when a wrestler had a less than stellar physique, the commentators would often cover for the wrestler's ability to throw guys around by claiming they had exceptional tendon strength. In some cases, such as with Dan "The Beast" Severn, it was true.
  • While it is normal for lightweight wrestlers to be squashed by the big guys they are plenty of cases where the smaller guys (and girls) can get the win against them. This can normally only be done with high flyers who rely on hit-and-run type tactics.
  • If you're a muscular WWE Diva then it's not wise to assume the Waif Fu girls will be an easy win. Just ask Beth Phoenix.


Video Games

  • In Super Smash Bros Melee, the Fragile Speedster Fox is not only possibly the fastest character, he also has two of the most powerful KO-moves in his up-aerial and up-smash, the latter of which is the second-most powerful of its sort in the whole game, easily beating the much slower up-smashes of Donkey Kong and Ganondorf in terms of raw power. And the strongest up-smash? Pikachu's.
  • This can be seen in MMORPGs as well. Since character appearances are purely aesthetic, a large muscular character could be defeated with ease by a smaller character.
    • Extremely apparent in City of Heroes and City of Villains. A player making a Brute or Tanker character can take Super Strength, War Mace, or Battle Axe and the strength of the attacks will be the same whether you're an 8-foot high hulking man or a 4-foot tall anorexic-looking girl.
    • Create a male draenei or orc mage in World of Warcraft, and you've got a Glass Cannon whom a Boss Battle can easily one-shot. However, due to all characters of any given race and sex using the same model, he'll still be huge and beefy. Roll a female blood elf paladin, on the other hand...your character appears to weigh less than her weapon, but is probably a Mighty Glacier.
      • Or a gnome, who in many cases will be swinging weapons larger than him/her self, and is just as capable as a tauren of tearing you to shreds.
    • Not just MMO's, any game with a customizable strength stat is susceptible to this because often the character model doesn't match the stats. Case in point, in Final Fantasy X, a properly-trained Yuna can do more physical damage than any other character, including Tidus and Auron. With a blunt stick, no less!
      • Try attacking a Behemoth with a levelled up Yuna doing 99999 damage. The wimpy sound she makes as she swings her staff just makes it that much stranger.
  • Mario as well; he can do things like lift Bowser by the tail, spin him around swiftly and throw him across an arena with just his arms in Super Mario 64, despite being a short, somewhat pudgy guy.
  • In the third Gears of War installment features Female COG's to the mix, who have normal/slender builds. This is a very blatant contrast to the average Male COG and Locust drone, who are huge and muscular, easily outweighing the Female COGS by more than 100%. This has no effect on their effectiveness in combat, with female cogs just as easily dragging around heavy weapons, and going toe to toe in HTH combat. Very blatant in this screen shot where a female COG bayonets a Locust and actually lifts off the ground. Note that the locusts arms are about as big as her torso.
  • In a word, Disgaea. Someone who looks like this should not even be capable of lifting the sword he is holding, much less be able to deal absurdly high amounts of damage or lift and throw ten significantly larger people at once.
    • Or blow up planets...
  • Kingdom Hearts' Sora, like most Kid Heroes, is short and has skinny stick limbs, their twiggyness only emphasized by his clothes and big shoes--yet he regularly beats the tar out of adult men and Mooks several times his size. For a villainous example, NPC Axel, especially the Bonus Boss version, should not be able to deal the damage he does with a frame like his.
    • Same thing that applies to Axel, goes with Larxene.
      • This is lampshaded early on in the first game, with Maleficent openly stating that "the boy's strength is not his own". It's implied that a combination of the Keyblade's magic and The Power of Friendship is what allows him to kick so much ass.
  • Pick any One-Hit-Point Wonder Nintendo Hard 80s/early 90s game where you play a bare-chested, supermuscloid juggernaut. (Karnov, Ikari Warriors, Contra, Smash TV, Total Carnage). Not only do the muscles never come into play (you use guns and the like), but if you touch even the weakest, skinniest Mooks, YOU ARE DEAD.
  • Link from The Legend of Zelda is generally on the small side and, even as an adult, doesn't get much bulkier than "wiry Bishounen" (and, if you're willing to go outside canon and take SoulCalibur II as a visual reference, barely grazes even five feet). He also generally lacks any super powers beyond an absurd level of courage and maybe a few acquired spells. So how is it that the guy can fight toe-to-toe with the hulking Big Bad or spontaneously perform backflips while wearing chainmail? And that doesn't even get into the time he out-Sumo Wrestled a giant rock creature because he was wearing heavy boots.
    • Although Twilight Princess Link does seem a bit more built. Justified in his being a farmhand prior to his adventure. Manual labor does a body good...
    • To be fair, in Ocarina of Time Adult Link is a larger guy than most of the population.
    • In Wind Waker Link was about 4 feet tall, one of the smallest characters in the game. Ganon was almost thrice Link's height!
    • This part of the series is so odd that even Miyamoto commented on it as peculiar. Of course in many cases it's justified by his possession of a strength-enhancing magical accouterment (in the last two set-top games, you get some in the first dungeon). To give an idea of how powerful these can make Link, by the end of OoT, the golden gauntlets allow him to rip a 5'×5'×30' solid stone pillar from the ground and lob it a hundred feet through the air; with that kind of might and an invincible blade like the Master Sword, he should be able to hew clean through any monster (or dungeon wall!) in a blow.
  • Dante of Devil May Cry would definitely count. While is certainly well built (his arms are like tree trunks in Devil May Cry 4) and of a large body frame (though Capcom changes this every game... all canon material place him to be no less than 6'2 and as tall as 6'7")... this in no way explains how he can cause a ten foot thick block of concrete to crack into two pieces with a half hearted punch; how he can hit a Demon King which is 40 times his size clean off his feet and back about twenty feet; how he can block a punch from a mile tall stone replica of his father with matching power to boot (meaning those punches probably equal out to be several hundred tons of force); etc. Also, while I'm sure that he has quite a bit of muscle on those legs of his... he still shouldn't be able to clear 100 foot jumps, how his legs can withstand being bulldozed into by a punch from a mile tall stone replica of his father with matching power to boot (Once again, probably equalling out to be several hundred tons of force), how he can launch objects with enough force to clear several hundred feet, etc. Then again, seeing as how he took out the EMPORER/GOD of all demons... I shouldn't be surprised.
    • All of his feats and strength are easily explained by the fact that he's supernatural. Despite being a bishonen though, he is actually of above average build (the degree varies from game to game).
    • He's not only supernatural but also magical as well. He can after all create a footing in thin air, why not enhance strength with magic?
  • Little Mac from Punch Out isn't even five feet tall and weighs a little over a hundred pounds, but he can defeat a variety of legendary heavyweight boxers such as Mike Tyson himself. This isn't due to his physical prowess but rather due to exploiting their stupidity and fighting patterns.
  • The original Mega Man game allows you to gain the same strength as Gutsman, a boss robot at least twice your size. The strength Mega Man shows in the end of the fifth game needs to be seen.
  • Saber from Fate Stay Night is a little over five feet tall and is built like a somewhat toned fourteen year old, and yet is capable of parrying blows from a ten foot tall crazed Berserker. This is because of her Mana Burst ability, where she consumes magic to perform superhuman feats of strength and endurance. When she's suffering from mana deprivation, she's about as weak as she looks. It is explicitly stated that without magical energy she is weaker that Shirou and Rin in terms of physical strength.
  • Kinda averted in Tsukihime and the Nasuverse. Arc and Saber are stated to be as weak as they appear if not for their high levels of supernatural magical energies. Then again, it does fit this trope in that Muscles Are Meaningless compare to magical energies and just about everyone that matters uses magical energies.
  • Played with in Prototype. Standard human-sized Alex can lift cars and kick helicopters apart with about 3 hits and the Supreme Hunter is a fair powerhouse despite not being much bigger. This is justified as both actually weigh far more than they appear on the surface. On the other hand, the standard human-sized Infected don't pose much threat in melee, Alex's Muscle Mass power (Exactly What It Says on the Tin) noticeably increases his melee power, and the various Elite Mooks that do pose a problem in melee are hulking bruisers towering over Alex.
  • Makoto Nanaya of Blaz Blue, despite being a squirrel girl who only weighs 49 kilograms (108 pounds), is one of the most powerful characters in the game, able to do a lot of physical damage with just her fists. This is not Gameplay and Story Segregation either. In one cutscene she drops from the air and leaves a large crater where she punched the ground and, to further let you know how powerful she is, she effortlessly picks up and carries off an unconscious Tsubaki like she were a rag doll.
  • Mass Effect's Male Shepard is decently built, but stick his Distaff Counterpart in a dress and she's a waif. This doesn't stop her punching krogan to death if she gets close enough. In the second game, Shepard is partially cybernetic and can fire a sniper rifle or shotgun that would shatter a normal human's bones.
    • The sniper rifle in question, the M-98 Widow, is an anti-tank rifle[1].
  • One of the augmentations the Spartans received in the Halo universe was a thyroid implant that increases their muscular density significantly (tying in to the real life science mention in the description). Spartan II's were "7 foot tall walking tanks" but they became known that way before their strength enhancing Powered Armor made them into near unstoppable soldiers. In a story surrounding the augmentation of John-117, at age 14 he already had an adult Olympic-level physique and after recovering from the thyroid implant he was physically far superior to a pair of ODST special forces soldiers, who made the mistake of trying to push him around...
  • While not as scrawny as some of the other video game characters listed, in Team Fortress 2, the Scout is able to sending enemies flying with a baseball bat, including the Heavy.
  • Cloud from Final Fantasy VII. He's 5'7", making him the shortest human male in the cast. Also, while having very well defined muscles, is much smaller than Barret or even Cid. Yet he's significantly stronger than anyone else in the party and in Advent Children he carries Barret one-handed at high speed.
  • Similarly, Fenris of Dragon Age II is an elf, which in this game means very thin and lanky, but specializes in two-handed weapons which not only include greatswords but hammers and axes as well. Helps that he has Lyrium laced throughout his body.
  • In Saints Row the Third, at your complete whim you can change your hulking, muscular beast of a character to a stick-like bishie twerp on the spot via plastic surgery, but you can still drop kick grown men, throw people across a highway, and manhandle a brute with a baseball bat like it's no big deal.
  • As the result of an Emergency Transformation gone wrong, Gauldoth from Heroes of Might and Magic IV has a frail-looking undead arm that is powerful enough to break someone's neck.


Web Comics


Web Original

  • In evidence in Tales of MU, where many characters' strength comes from magic. The protagonist Mackenzie Blaise is among the stronger characters, but appears to be an underdeveloped eighteen-year-old girl. Puddy is more muscular in appearance, but not enough to account for the fact that she's sometimes stronger than a dragon.
  • In the web fiction Whateley Universe, you certainly can't judge strength by muscle bulk, because everyone at the Super-Hero School Whateley Academy is a mutant.. including plenty of the teachers. Sensei Ito is a tiny little old man.. who starts every term by demonstrating that he - an ordinary human with no mutant abilities - can beat the crap out of the most dangerous mutant in the room. Phase is five-foot-nothing and too skinny (he just grew three inches), but at full strength he can dead-lift nearly two tons.


Western Animation

  • The Powerpuff Girls.
  • Disney's Hercules, especially in the beginning of the toon. Initially he is quite small and thin but superstrong no matter what.
  • Bamm-Bamm as an infant on The Flintstones. Later, he becomes a buff teen.
  • Ed, Sarah, and Rolf from Ed, Edd n Eddy have virtually no muscles but are incredibly strong, but Rolf does when he flexes or becomes enraged.
  • Juniper Lee displays remarkable super strength compared to her appearance. Justified in that she's the Te Xuan Ze and her super strength is magical.
  • Stewie Griffin of Family Guy can brutalize adults and fire an automatic weapon with no recoil problems despite being a baby. And then he'll get his ass whooped by an infant younger than him.
  • June from Ka Blam!. Judging by her usually adorable appearance, no one could believe that she's pretty buff.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Jun beats some huge guy at arm wrestling easily. Then again, she is badass.
  • Johnny Bravo, despite being a muscular Top-Heavy Guy, is regularly shown to be beaten by people at the most half his size.
  • Dave the Barbarian is a very tall muscular guy but he's a total wuss who can't fight worth a damn and always gets his ass kicked by people and animals smaller than him.
  • On Total Drama Island, shrimpy, geeky Cody seems to have super strength. Aside from his Crowning Moment of Awesome knocking out Duncan in one punch, in TDDDDI he was hanging off a cliff, holding up himself, the muscular Tyler, the even-more-muscular DJ, and almost-three-hundred-pound Big Eater Owen. Shockingly, he was actually able to pull up all of their weight (though the cliff edge couldn't, which is why they fell anyway).
  • In Silverhawks, Genius Bruiser twins Steelheart and Steelwill exemplify this perfectly. Steelwill is huge and brawny, to the point his facemask looks like a football helmet. Steelheart looks like a very athletic woman, but even she looks positively tiny next to her brother. And yet, they're equally strong and evenly matched in any physical contest, making Steelwill's towering bulk look... inefficient next to his sleeker, more compact sibling.


Truth In Television

  • Bruce Lee was about 160 pounds at his heaviest, and slimmed down in later years. By his movie-making prime, he was about 135-140 pounds, 5'7, and could do pushups with a 250 pound man standing on his back. Truth in Television indeed. On the other hand, his muscles might not have a lot of mass, but certainly have definition.
  • Joseph Greenstein, known professionally as The Mighty Atom (and likely inspiring the golden age DC Comics character of that name, and Astro Boy's original name) weighed only 140 pounds. His feats included changing a tire without any tools, biting through nails and chains, lying on a bed of nails with a 14 piece Dixieland band playing on a board on his chest, and stopping a plane from taking off by clipping it to his hair. He first became interested in developing his body and mind when a jealous suitor of his wife shot him at near point blank range between the eyes. The bullet broke his skin, but flattened itself against his skull.
  • Coelasquid breaks it down for you.
  • When someone is armed with the right knowledge (where to strike) and the training to match, a heavily muscled opponent can go down as easily as anyone else.
  • There are various methods of weight training (along with mixing and matching styles), but in its most general terms there is strength and fitness methods. Strength is about finding your maximum weight for the exercise and then continually pushing beyond that; that is what creates muscle size and being able to impressively lift a car or whatever. Fitness is about going with a lower weight and doing a high number of repetitions; this doesn't increase muscle size nearly as much but it does increase endurance. Everything else being equal, people who go for Strength style usually have a higher weight they can operate at but Fitness style people can impart greater speed to their strength.
    • Talked about in a NOVA program about a NOVA-sponsored team training for the Boston Marathon. One of the trainers was an experienced marathon trainer. One of the trainees was a former NFL linebacker. As the latter outright said, he's built to run 5 yards and hit you with the most violence possible... but that doesn't mean he can even keep up with the former on the initial training runs.
  • In grappling, what makes a difference is agility and having a lower center of gravity. Guess who wins in a match between a 5'5" nerd and a 6'1" baseball player.
  • In boxing, the guys who tend to be longer and lankier almost invariably wind up being the hardest punchers around. Alexis Arguello was famously known as the Explosive Thin Man and like his nickname implied, had true one-punch knockout power in either hand. This tends to be because leverage is much more important for generating knockout power as opposed to brute strength, and the most muscular fighters tend to be at a disadvantage because they typically lack the conditioning to go deep in fights.
  • Most animals' muscles are proportionately stronger than those of humans, meaning that a monkey can potentially win a tug-of-war against a man four or five times its size. This may be a legacy of how much of human physiology is designed for endurance rather than sudden bursts of strength.
    • Some primates can actually win a tug of war contest against four or five men that are each four or five times its size. This was often used when getting suckers to box chimpanzees. The chimp would win every time very easily.
  • A 6-pack abs does not indicate strength; muscle definition means that there simply isn't fat covering up the muscle.
  • The surge of adrenaline that occurs when someone is terrified can override the usual safety limits that stop us from contracting more than about 1/3 of a muscle's myofibrils at a time. This increases strength enormously, but at a cost: neither muscles nor tendons can tolerate such extreme tension without risk of injury, meaning that someone who uses all of that extra strength is likely to suffer sprains, muscle tears, or even broken bones.
  • People who want to be firefighters need, among other things, to be able to lift and carry a great deal of weight before they can actually become firefighters. At least in some regions, the requirements are the same for men and women. In Dearborn, Michigan, there are three female firefighters - one of them is much more muscular than the barely-toned Hollywood ideal for women, but if she were a man she would be considered slender, lightly-built. She can lift 250 pounds; since her fellow district firefighters aren't required to work out, some don't, and she is actually stronger than them.
  • Soldiers are seldom very big; often they have a bit of a gut to them.
  • Most special forces and infantrymen tend to have either a skinny but toned build or a (very) slightly chunky build. You're not going to see a group of guys like Arnold, Weathers and Ventura in Predator. (Note: Ventura is a rare exception, he was a Navy UDT.) If you look at a group of SEAL trainees for example, they're more likely to have a little gut than a six-pack. For them, it isn't about looking good, but its about being good (having to combine raw strength, power, endurance and agility all at once.)According to Dick Couch, almost all the bodybuilders that show up to BUD/S drop within days because they cannot keep up because of their mass.
    • In one episode of the Military Channel's series Surviving the Cut, the trainees in question were wannabe Army combat divers. Unlike episodes featuring other elite units where there was a large variety of body types, the trainees in this case all looked relatively massive: they had to be very good swimmers before they arrived at the course, and anyone putting in that much time in the pool to get ready for the course is going to have big shoulders and arms. It's very possible to not get selected for being TOO big if you survive selection.
  • Even if a person's bulging muscles do give them a lot of strength, there's big gap between having strength and applying that strength to tasks other than heavy lifting. The training isn't very high on bodybuilder's or competitive weightlifter's list of priorities, and athletes below the professional level aren't always aware that they have to do more work after they build their strength, or never get good information on how to do it from their coaches.
  • While machines were adopted for weight training because they keep the weight from moving around in an unsafe manner, this has turned out to cause more injuries than traditional methods because it works out major muscle groups without also engaging stability muscles. In recent years, there's been a shift to "strongman"-style training with awkward loads (sandbags, water tubes, medicine balls, etc.) to give athletes control to back their strength.
  • It's entirely possible for a diet to provide enough calories to get stronger, but not enough to gain muscle mass. It's much more common with vegetarian and vegan athletes who can reach their optimal protein intake with fewer total calories.
  • Varvara Akulova. Amazingly strong and has been lifting weights since a very young age. At her early teenage years she could lift 350 kg (770 pounds) and herself only weighed 40 kg (88 pounds).
  • Abraham Lincoln was unusually tall and thin, but according to several sources, was quite a good wrestler in his youth.

Notes

  1. "The Widow was never designed to be carried and fired by a human. Although this modified model can be carried, no ordinary human could fire it without shattering an arm."
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