Created By: KyleJacobs on June 2, 2014 Last Edited By: KyleJacobs on June 9, 2014
Troped

Uninhibited Muscle Power

The brain usually inhibits the body\'s strength to protect it, but not this time.

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Some characters are strong. In many works, this can easily be justified - either superpowers are known to exist, or Charles Atlas Superpower is a fact of life.

But in some settings, the author needs a more down-to-earth explanation for why one guy can throw cars around like they're made of tissue paper. When someone is called upon for said explanation, the following lecture will usually occur:

"You ever hear about moms lifting cars off their kids? The human body is actually capable of incredible strength, but the brain inhibits it most of the time in order to keep our muscles from tearing themselves apart under the strain. His body is doing the same thing, but he's in that state of strength all the time."

Essentially, this is Explosive Overclocking applied to human beings who lack the Required Secondary Powers to handle it. This can be used as a Hand Wave or Played for Drama; in the latter case, expect the danger of a Heroic R.R.O.D. resulting from overuse of this strength to be heavily played up.

The principle behind this is Truth in Television, but the idea of these inhibitors being permanently turned off or granting anything that could be considered true Super Strength is most emphatically not.


Examples

Anime and Manga
  • Shizuo Heiwajima from Durarara!! seems to have been born without the ability to control his own strength. As a kid, his bones would routinely break under the strain. However, he recovers stronger every time, so as an adult, he doesn't usually get that particular side effect.
  • Ayumu, the titular zombie from Is This a Zombie?, can remove his inhibitors on his muscles in combat.

Film

Literature
  • The Dresden Files. During Skin Game, Butters speculates that this is all that Harry actually gains from the mantle of the Winter Knight and points out that it's going to take an immense toll on his body over the long term.
  • In The Zombie Survival Guide, the narrator points out that zombies don't have the mental limits preventing them from using 100% of their muscular power. This makes them very powerful, but prone to injuring themselves.
  • In Of Mice and Men, Lenny has super strength presumably as a compensatory byproduct of his mental deficiency.

Live-Action TV
  • Seinfeld. George plays with this in one episode: he had been faking a handicap for his employer, who provided him with an electronic scooter; later, George accidentally upsets a group of geriatrics, who chase him on their scooters, but since the battery dies, George picks up his scooter and runs with it... right into his employer. Afterwards, George tries to explain what happened by claiming that in desperate times, people have been known to perform feats of superhuman strength, and even uses The Incredible Hulk as an example.
  • This is the origin of the Hulk in The Incredible Hulk TV show. Dr. David Banner, physician, scientist, searches for a way to tap into the hidden strengths all humans have because he wasn't able to save his wife in a car accident despite the scientific fact that some people can flip a car when given the proper incentive. It turns out that on those occasions there were solar flares going on, sending gamma radiation into Earth's atmosphere. Banner overexposes himself with gamma radiation but it doesn't seem to have any effect - until later.

Tabletop Games
  • Paranoia: The mutant power Adrenaline Control allowed the user to boost their Strength to superhuman levels for a short period of time, at the cost of serious muscle damage afterwards.

Real Life
  • Humans are capable of using only one-third of their muscles' potential strength (even when hyped up on steroids) due to a biological block. Only a few people have gone past this with even fewer reaching full potential. Every one of those situations was a life or death situation, when special hormones such as adrenaline are able to allow us to override the block, hence how people refer to this reaction as "fight-or-flight". The reason why this Defence Mechanism Superpower can only remain as a defence mechanism is because the stress reaction deprives other systems of energy, like for example digestion (hence Bring My Brown Pants) and the immune system (hence why chronically stressed people are more likely to get sick), and also because any amount of exertion above the one-third limit causes our muscles (and even tendons) to tear themselves from the bone, rip themselves apart, or even start to liquefy. Of course, the severity of the damage depends on the intensity of the stressor, how far beyond the limits one goes, and for how long.
Community Feedback Replies: 27
  • June 2, 2014
    bitemytail
    Don't like the name.

    In The Zombie Survival Guide, the narrator points out that zombies don't have the mental limits preventing them from using 100% of their muscular power. This makes them very powerful, but prone to injuring themselves.
  • There's Truth In Television behind this (which justifies the name) been numerous stories in the news of people becoming trapped under their cars after an accident, and good samaritans being able to lift those cars off of them in those moments of need, that they would otherwise be unable to do so in other circumstances; it's explained that when your adrenaline is rushing, it acts almost like a jolt to your strength, giving you the ability to perform such feats, like lifting cars. There was one story in particular a couple of years ago of a young girl who lifted a car off her father after he got trapped underneath while working on it, which almost killed him.

    Live Action TV
    • Seinfeld. George plays with this in one episode: he had been faking a handicap for his employer, who provided him with an electronic scooter; later, George accidentally upsets a group of geriatrics, who chase him on their scooters, but since the battery dies, George picks up his scooter and runs with it... right into his employer. Afterwards, George tries to explain what happened by claiming that in desperate times, people have been known to perform feats of superhuman strength, and even uses The Incredible Hulk as an example.
  • June 2, 2014
    Generality
    In the Darkman series, this was how the eponym got his enhanced strength. Tied to his inability to feel pain.
  • June 2, 2014
    Notthegrouch
    needs a better Laconic too. It doesn't help if the short explanation needs explaining. and if someone don't know the "using only 10 percent of the brain" factoid, it does need explaining.
  • June 2, 2014
    DAN004
  • June 2, 2014
    xanderiskander
    Laconic should be "The brain usually inhibits super strength in normals, but here that's turned off"

    The humans only use 10% of their brain thing is a myth by the way. Humans use their whole brain all through out their day when thinking, acting and feeling so It has no scientific basis at all. Nobody's quite sure who the quote originated from, but it was largely perpetuated by bogus tabloid magazines. It was probably originally meant as an insult calling most people stupid, and then people took it literally.
  • June 2, 2014
    Chabal2
    I think Naruto had a Dangerous Forbidden Technique along those lines, using muscles to their fullest but limited by how long they last under the strain.
  • June 2, 2014
    bitemytail
    ^ Opening Chakra gates. Didn't really have to do with muscles though.
  • June 2, 2014
    Generality
    ^ Actually, the Chakra gates thing is supposed to be related to this phenomenon. This is why Lee is able to use it despite being unable to use magical techniques.
  • June 2, 2014
    partner555
    I'm also going to say that this needs a better name.
  • June 2, 2014
    Daefaroth
    Adrenaline Strength? I would suggest Adrenaline Super Strength if it weren't for the unfortunate acronym.
  • June 2, 2014
    AP
  • June 2, 2014
    KyleJacobs
  • June 2, 2014
    randomsurfer
    This is the origin of the Hulk in The Incredible Hulk TV show. Dr. David Banner, physician, scientist, searches for a way to tap into the hidden strengths all humans have because he wasn't able to save his wife in a car accident despite the scientific fact that some people can flip a car when given the proper incentive. It turns out that on those occasions there were solar flares going on, sending gamma radiation into Earth's atmosphere. Banner overexposes himself with gamma radiation but it doesn't seem to have any effect - until later.
  • June 3, 2014
    Arivne
    Tabletop Games
    • Paranoia. The mutant power Adrenaline Control allowed the user to boost their Strength to superhuman levels for a short period of time, at the cost of serious muscle damage afterwards.
  • June 3, 2014
    Arivne
    • Examples section formatting
      • Added a line separating the Description and Examples sections.
      • Media section title(s): Changed to our standard style and Blue Linked.
    • Added blank line(s) for readability.
  • June 3, 2014
    DAN004
    Dunno if this counts
    • One Piece: Ivankov's adrenaline injections (from his power of hormonal control) can make the patienr stronger and have increased stamina, as well as relieving pain easily, at the cost of suffering all of it after it wears off.
  • June 3, 2014
    KantonKage
    Compare Explosive Overclocking for what after if the person doesn't have Required Secondary Powers.

    Anime

    • Ayumu, the titular zombie from Is This A Zombie, can remove his inhibitors on his muscles in combat.
  • June 3, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    Comic Books
    • In Justice Society Of America, Citizen Steel is incapable of feeling pain and has muscles made out of living metal. Without his special strength-limiting suit, he's unable to touch anything without accidentally destroying it.
  • June 4, 2014
    KyleJacobs
    That doesn't look like it fits the description.
  • June 4, 2014
    Statzkeen
    I like Kanton's idea of comparing this to human explosive overclocking minus required secondary powers.
  • June 7, 2014
    KyleJacobs
    If no one else has anything to add, then I'd say this is ready to launch.
  • June 7, 2014
    DAN004
    If I were you, I'd wait for more examples.
  • June 7, 2014
    SKJAM
    The alleged superpower of Mr. Furious in Mystery Men. Right up until the end, when he finally gets angry enough for it to actually work.
  • June 7, 2014
    Mr.Movie
    It has my hat.
  • June 8, 2014
    inkfingers
    In Of Mice and Men Lenny has super strength presumably as a compensatory byproduct of his mental deficiency.
  • June 8, 2014
    Generality
    I elaborated the Darkman example, since I realised I had it poorly worded to begin with.
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