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In the land of make-believe, training can literally give you superhuman powers! Intense exercise can let you split boulders, jump three stories straight up, "see" while wearing a blindfold, and make your skin bulletproof... somehow.
A lot of characters have out-and-out superhuman abilities, as noted by minor characters and the explanation for such powers is just, "They trained really hard for several years. Train, and you, too, can bash mountains open with your head." Western comic book superheroes, often stated to "lack superpowers", nevertheless are clearly able to hold their own and defeat villains with superhuman strength many times their own simply by knowing Kung Fu or something. "Non-superpowered" characters such as Batman could beat almost anyone in a fight, dodge bullets and withstand ridiculous amounts of damage because they spent a few years living on top of a mountain.
Although most of the western versions of this trope don't have explicitly supernatural abilities, they can do things that would be impossible for normal humans. Asian and Asian-based fiction is somewhat different, as such examples are generally grounded in Eastern mysticism, involving the development and focusing of chi (AKA qi or ki). The superpower here is thus of a more traditional sort than in Western examples, though the training is still the significant factor; Average Joe can't harness his chi half as well as Krillin. You might as well go ahead and apply your own mental Justifying Edit to all such examples below, as this "explains" everything from Mortal Kombat to Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children.
The standard line here is that "the average person only uses ten to fifteen percent of their potential strength." It is possible for the brain to use far more muscle power than the person would normally consider their limit, but usually only by shutting down most other major body processes- digestion, the immune system etc.- and flooding the body with adrenaline. Otherwise known as the "fight or flight" response. In other words, it's a Dangerous Forbidden Technique only ever used for Big Damn Heroes moments. It's common for a Proto Superhero to derive his or her extraordinary talents this way, as such characters pre-date most stock superpower-origin stories.
The Trope Namer is an early 20th-century bodybuilder, who advertised a program which swore it could turn any 97-lb. weakling into a hulking, muscular giant who could punch out a bully that kicked sand in his face. This sort of idea was around long before and after Charles Atlas, however, as the ever-brilliant David S. Zondy explains.
See also Made of Iron and Weak, but Skilled. The same idea applied to the mind would be 90% of Your Brain . Contrast Hard Work Hardly Works. God forbid that you give the character actual superpowers and make him an Empowered Badass Normal. May result because they Sacrificed Basic Skill for Awesome Training. Use of actual Ki Attacks (e.g. Pure Energy blasts) blur the line between this and outright magic. May run in families.
The inverse to this trope is Boxing Lessons for Superman, where an already-superpowered character trains in a mundane skill. This syndrome is usually the result of the Badass Normal being portrayed as a little toobadass.
Compare Art Major Biology, The Power of Acting, and Supernatural Martial Arts. Contrast Enlightenment Superpowers. When repetitive training grants a character powerful skills without their knowledge, that's Wax On, Wax Off. If it turns out the "mundane"-level power actually was a gift, that's Real Life Super Powers.
Note this doesn't count for characters with strength from Supernatural, technological or Alien origin, but for characters who obtain this strength naturally. For example, while Superman has superstrength as one of his superpowers, he does not count for this trope.
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Anime & Manga
Sket Dance's Himeko (the "Onihime") is a beautiful bruiser who can take on an army of delinquents with nothing but her natural strength and a WOODEN hockeystick.
Played for laughs with Koma-chan who scares away/injures her suitors with her freakish strength. She also breaks her cellphone's keypad because of it.
The Mazinger series
Kouji Kabuto was a physically average teenager in the original Mazinger Z, but in Shin Mazinger Zero he performs physical feats that should not be possible, possibly due to the constant time travel is somehow heightening his capabilities. He does not seem being initially aware of it, though. In the second timeline we see he destroys one robot with one single punch and he panics wondering if he is some kind of monster. In the third timeline he easily dodges the attacks of the Gamia sisters and takes down one of them despite of they are several times faster and more agiler than a human being (like an amazed Minerva notes).
Duke Fleed from UFO Robo Grendizer. In the first episode Kouji suspected he hid something. When he saw Duke leaping several meters upwards in one single bound he realized that guy was not human.
Chakra is a fundamental part of the human anatomy in the series, so it is sort of justified. The entire premise is that everyone is a potential Charles Atlas.
Rock Lee practically embodies this trope, even by ninja standards. Not having the ability to control chakra, he constantly trains with insane exercises like always wearing leg weights that appear to have the same mass as a small house. Each.
On a similar note, the show, and in particular Rock Lee, seems to reference the unconscious inhibition that the mind places on the body via the Eight Gates. However, opening them to go into Super Mode will quickly lead to exhaustion, and opening all 8 gates leads to death. The purpose of the Gates is essentially to allow the user to go past the basic human limitations and use 100% of their full physical power.
Lee's mentor Might Guy possesses physical power that makes his student look like a pillowcase in comparison. In Six Gates Mode, Gai punches so fast that his fists set on fire simply due to friction, and in Seven Gates Mode, he punches the air so hard that it compresses into a giant exploding tiger head by physical strength alone. However, this has more to do with the gates than him specifically. His father used all eight gates at once, and curbstomped the seven strongest swordsmen in the world. All at once. With what we've seen on screen of it, the eighth gate allos the user to bend space with their speed, and break their own legs by kicking someone. Of course, that kick would probably turn a normal person into paste.
Luffy, Sanji and Zoro, amongst many others from One Piece, can casually slap away sea monsters the size of whales and throw a whole building with minimal effort just because they've trained hard enough. Luffy has a superpower, but it has little to do with that.
In Luffy and Zoro's case, be glad that they actually showed/mentioned tedious training (Zoro exercises with weights roughly the size of monster truck wheels). Almost every character in the series whose combat ability does not solely revolve around weapons possesses at least some form of super strength/speed, or at least a massive damage soak (seriously, Usopp surviving a 4-ton bat slammed into his skull? While being dragged along the ground at 30 MPH?).
Jozu, 3rd Division Commander of the Whitebeard Pirates, is maybe the strongest in terms of brute strength yet in One Piece. His Diamond powers shouldn't affect his muscles, but yet, he can lift an iceberg.
Haki could be considered a superpower by real standards. Haki makes you able to nullify Devil Fruit powers (which are the series' resident actual superpowers), feel an opponent's strength and predict their movements and, finally, knock out thousands of weaker opponents by your mere spirit - and to people who have never heard about it, it's often thought to be magic. Every human (and human-like beings) in the series has the potential for it, but only few manage to awaken that potential. So that way, it seems like an extraordinary superpower even though it's a power that every human has.
Taken to extreme levels in Dragon Ball Z where all living things have ki as a sort of mystical lifeforce. Apparently with training you can make your ki pool larger and stronger and learn how to channel it into shooting energy beams, flying, being bulletproof, telepathic, and have Super Strength that'd make them outright near Superman level. You'd still not really be much of a match for most androids and aliens, but still.
Being an alien (Saiyan) seems to give you the highest ki "potential", but then the human members gain strength far surpassing what is possible (although they're still extremely weak in comparison to said aliens).
Although, considering that it is outright stated that ki use literally causes the user to become stronger, more resilient and faster, and that most ordinary humans are ignorant of the EXISTENCE of ki, never mind how to use it, it's unclear whether it qualifies as this trope. In Dragon Ball those who know of its use are mostly human martial arts masters, though; it's only later on that aliens like the Saiyans who have a natural affinity for ki utilisation are introduced, although even some Saiyans like Vegeta were unable to use skills like Ki Sense until meeting the Z Fighters of Earth.
And let it sink in for a moment: Krillin, as much as he is quite weak by the series' end, is still far ahead of master Roshi, who was one of the strongest men alive if not the strongest, being born a mere 4 or 5 generations later; then consider that, even though he's quite weak in comparison, he still possesses one of the deadliest techniques seen in the series, to the point it was an actual threat to Freeza, who was orders of magnitude above him. Now, if the trend continues, humans of the future, who train under Krillin, Goku & gang will likely be the next sayans, as other races in the universe seem rather static as to their powerlevels and limits. Now add to all that sayajin blood mixing into the human race and the stated fact that a sayajin/human might be stronger than a full sayajin, even though we never quite see that (though that might solely be due to fancry).
Whenever Hayate from Hayate the Combat Butler does something impossible (like pedalling a bicycle faster than a car (a common anime technique) or surviving a hit from Humongous Mecha), the only comment he or some other Combat Commentator will make is "It's all right, he trains." It might have something to do with Athena unlocking his innate potential with magic when he was six. Then again, considering the massive spike in Hayate's strength between then and the start of the story, it may have been a Magic Feather and his nightly training had more to do with it.
The other butlers get this as well since even Mook Butlers go through some pretty rigorous training and show some level of stronger-than-normal abilities. The named butlers tend to be at or near Hayate's level with the only real justification being "we're butlers, it's our duty to be this awesome". Seen less in the manga which really tapered off the appearance of butlers that aren't Hayate.
Hayate's brother is even more ridiculous than him and doesn't even have an excuse. He can guess that he trained a lot as a kid but he's yet to mention it. Same goes for Hinagiku and Yukiji. Yukiji likely trained to beat up Yakuza since she had to pay the debt their parents left them much like Hayate's parents did to him and can do even more insane feats of raw strength than Hayate but with much less skill and finesse. Hinagiku can match Hayate in combat and can slice boulders with wooden swords with her only training being that she's the Kendo Team Captain and that she always tries her best at everything she does...considering the rest of the Kendo Club's members are still average humans this leaves more questions than it answers.
Masaru from Digimon Savers, over the course of a single day (the first episode), beat up over a dozen thugs, fought a strong Rookie-level Digimon for a least a few hours, and later punched out a 20-foot chicken while dodging its laser blasts. Just how he does things like this is never explained, but seems to be due in part to the Digisoul/Digimon Natural Ability. Or Lamarck Was Right.
Get Backers has some characters with actual superpowers, but others are masters of obscure martial arts that allow one to make things such as a whip, strings, needles, etc. utterly rewrite the laws of physics.
Parodied in Welcome to the N.H.K. when Satou decides to test if he has gained powers like those characters have from training alone on a mountain from living alone in his apartment. He successfully karate-chops a beer bottle but cuts his hand.
He was even more badass during World War II, when he was only fourteen years old. Case in point: he jumped out of an Allied spyplane, hundreds of feet above the ground, carrying a coffin that probably outweighed him, without a parachute, and landed completely unharmed on the enemy leader's dining room table.
Fist of the North Star/Hokuto no Ken. Everybody without a mohawk has a CAS. Everyone with a mohawk is just cannon fodder, as weak and defenseless as fanged bunnies. Ken mentions at one point that most humans ever use only a small fraction of what their bodies are capable of, and the Hokuto Shinken school teaches (in addition to the pressure points) how to apply your full potential.
Kenshiro: Most people only use 30% of their natural strength. That's not much. The secret to Hokuto Shinken is controlling the other 70% as well.
Guts from Berserk is a monster of a man who swings a BFS with frightening speed and has survived more than two years' worth of relentless demon attacks, many of which would have killed a normal man many times over. The justification is that he has spent literally his entire life on battlefields, meaning he's also spent most of it in battle. Wielding a sword most of the day for every day of your life will eventually add up, it seems.
The manga states that surviving the Eclipse allowed Guts to gradually turn himself into a literal superhuman through sheer willpower. Of course, he was tough enough to fight and wipe out a 100-men unit even when he was a perfectly normal soldier.
Black Cat is rife with this — the setting includes an entire martial art dedicated to punching bullets — but what's notable is that the beneficiaries of this trope are for the most part more powerful than characters with genuine supernatural abilities: when Belze fights Kyoko, he notes that she's using her Taoist abilities to enhance her speed... then promptly declares that, at said speed, it's ridiculous for her to even be trying to hit him. The extreme example, though, is Sephiria's ability to disintegrate people (literally nothing left) with her sword just by hitting them a lot, really hard. Even some of the more normal characters like Saya and Kevin still have some ridiculous skills.
Gourry Gabrieve of Slayers is able to flick acorns with enough power to put serious holes in the bodies of trolls (Lina had cast a spell on them to reverse their usual regenerative skills, but being able to put those holes there was all Gourry).
Mana is apparently strong enough to flick coins at people with enough force to knock them over. This, at least, could be a faint residual from the earlier time in her life when she received regular physical enhancement from her mage partner. She does have weak unrelated magical powers (as well as the contacts to purchase enchanted ammo). She's also a half-demonfolk.
Makie, the only one who's not a trained fighter, did some rather absurd things in an early appearance just with her gymnastics training, including using her ribbon as a whip to snatch a book from a large monster and Indiana Jones over a pitfall. Later on, she uses the ribbon to pick up and throw Negi.
Later revelations show that Jack Rakan started out as a slave in a gladiatorial combat arena and became uber strong through 40 or so years of fighting in tournaments and wars. He is stated to be stronger than Fate, who could almost beat Negi in a stand up fight at the very end of the series. He breaks out of a dimension imprisoning him through willpower alone. He survives his own unmaking, though only briefly, by focusing hard enough. He is... well, you understand. He also used magic, of course, but in the world he lived in this was hardly a superpower.
Every single Saint, Shogun, and Spectre in Saint Seiya, where even the kindest and gentlest Saint had to endure horrific experiences that later endowed him with supernatural fighting skills. In the case of Spectres (and Phoenix Saint Ikki), they endured a very literal Training from Hell. Considering they all started their training as small boys under the age of ten, and their weakest moves were at the speed of sound by his 13th birthday...
The protagonists in Hunter × Hunter manage to push open doors weighing several tons simply by going through the Training from Hell for a few months. Afterwards, the main character is shown projecting an obese strongman several dozen meters away simply by pushing him with a single hand. And that's before Nen is even involved. Of course, there's no visible muscular increase.
Also, Killua (and indeed, his entire family) is not only immune to every single poison in the world because he has ingested them when he was an infant, but he is also immune to electricity because he received electrical shocks along with the poisons. He can still feel pain, though.
Middle-aged Netero is shown practicing ten thousand punches everyday, doing it faster and faster until he actually punched faster than the speed of sound. Even after turning into a 110-year-old geezer, he still moves so fast that even the supreme specimens of a monstrously strong species of creatures have no idea what's going on.
Suzaku Kururugi from Code Geass is stronger and faster than normal humans. This is demonstrated rather memorably when he dodges fire from an automated ceiling-mounted machine gun, runs up a nearby wall, and destroys the turret with a Hurricane Kick (and all of this before he got geassed). The geass placed on Suzaku was the command to live. It removed all hesitation during combat and made him use his super human reflexes optimally, moving fast enough to beat even someone who could see the future.
Kallen performed a couple feats that could be said to be inhuman. In the first episode of the second season, Kallen jumps over a chess table and takes out several guards with a spin-kick. She can also karate chop a bumblebee in half while it's in mid-flight, without even turning to look at it. This isn't nearly as impressive as Suzaku... except that she's never said to be trained in anything. She just has a lot of exercise gear in her room.
Sayoko, who jumps her own height in a rather fabulous manner, and displays impressive combat skill. She's a maid. Well, a Ninja Maid. She was also trained as a Japanese SP... or a ninja, but she denies that. Of course, she spent at least the last five years in a very low-impact lifestyle, caring for Nunnally, so any training she may have had should have long deteriorated.
Ling Yao and his bodyguards from Fullmetal Alchemist are shown to be more than a match for the super human homunculi. All of them are able to survive jumps and falls that would kill a normal human. Ling himself duels King Bradley while carrying Lanfan.
Wrath doesn't have the superhuman abilities of the other homunculi, "only" an Ultimate Eye that acts as Combat Clairvoyance turned Up to Eleven, but that doesn't stop him from being so fast that the Xingese characters can't even touch him, nor stop him from being strong enough to cut bullets in half with a sword.
To be specific, Wrath only used his Ultimate Eye twice in the entire series. He doesn't even need it to dodge bullets and cut the shooters to shreds before they even realized they missed.
Wrath took down a tank with a single fucking sword and a grenade.
Goro Honda/Shigeno, the main character from the baseball anime/manga Major. The guy can throw fastballs over 100 mph and he's not even using his natural dominant hand. Don't even get us started on his tenacity and endurance.
Hei of Darker Than Black is an extremely agile martial artist with amazing reflexes who can jump from heights unscathed. These qualities are also true of his sort of Evil Counterpart, Wei. And they both have actual superpowers to boot. Notably, in fight between the two, Bullet Time effects are somewhat implausibly used.
Claire Stanfield of Baccano! is inhumanly agile thanks to his experience in the circus, as his constant backflips and Wall Crawls on the top of a moving train demonstrate. He also apparently has the jaw strength to nonchalantly bite people's fingers clean off, but that's neither here nor there. The author has said that the reason Claire doesn't get his own plotline is because he is the strongest character in the series.
Chane, who can deflect bullets with knives (including ones fired from a shotgun) or Graham, who can catch bullets with his wrench or disassemble entire cars midair in seconds.
Domon and Master Asia get all the attention, but almost every Gundam Fighter is an example by necessity. Throughout the series we get several demonstrations that the top-class fighters (including the Five-Man Band and the Devil Gundam's Four Kings) are all perfectly capable of performing their Finishing Moveswithout their Gundams.
Ryoma Nagare in Getter Robo. Some examples of his martial arts prowess include: throwing a sword (by the blade) with enough force to sever a man's arm; jumping hundreds of feet from a helicopter onto a car and suffering only minor discomfort; climbing up the face of a rampaging Getter-2 to punch the pilot in the face; resisting an animal tranquilizer strong enough to kill most men even after nearly bleeding to death immediately beforehand; breaking a katana by flexing his chest muscles; and punching dinosaurs to death.
Chad gains actual powers early in the first arc, but before he does he's shown to be inhumanly strong. A steel beam falls on him from several stories up, and he takes it like it was a weak punch. Also, his first encounter with a hollow was before he was able to see them, so Rukia told him where to swing his bat. Or at least the telephone pole he uprooted and was using as a bat.
Go Koga, an anime-only filler character, manages to beat up Ichigo using only his physical strength, which is odd at first because his race was established to rely exclusively on familiars to fight. He then explains that his strength is not the result of his Bount powers, but rather, it's the inherent strength of his human body.
While Ichigo is Brought Down to Badass during the Time Skip, his physical body retains the strength and reflexes gained through months of fighting monsters and dragging a giant sword around. He can still wipe the floor with pretty much any normal human even before Can't Stay Normal kicks in.
Almost everyone in Katekyo Hitman Reborn! who isn't a comic relief character (and several who are.) Practice something enough, and you'll gain godlike skill in it, no matter what it is. Are you good at boxing? Keep up the training and soon you'll be able to destroy half a gymnasium with one punch. Adept at ranking people's talents? Eventually you'll get so good at it, you'll develop a superhuman ranking skill so intense that you'll NEGATE GRAVITY AROUND YOURSELF AS A SIDE EFFECT OF THINKING ABOUT IT. Oh, and also, a one-year-old infant can earn a PHD in advanced mathematics without giving up his day job as the world's most feared and respected mafia hitmen. Inspiring!
Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle's Syaoran Li. In a fight, he will kick damn near anything from a giant icicle blade, big muscular guy with superhuman strength granted by magic to a God Bird Thing. Might be why Syaoran is so awesome.
Kurogane, who, not counting his sword skills, can punch down a stone wall barehanded.
Quite a bit of the cast from Rurouni Kenshin, the protagonist being the most obvious. Of course, Kenshin did live through both a Training from Hell and a bloody conflict in which he served as an assassin. (The series itself does somewhat attempt to justify all of the Charles Atlas Superpowers: Soujirou spent his childhood carrying heavy objects and sealed away his emotions due to abuse; Aoshi is a ninja and thus an expert in stealth techniques; Usui's blindness subsequently enhanced the senses already sharpened by years of training; etcetera.)
The movie has an unusual example: Jin-e, the villain, is apparently capable of making people's lungs seize up just by staring at them. He explicitly states that this is not magical in any way. (The manga "explains" this as a form of hypnotism.)
In Durarara!!, Shizuo's Super Strength is a result of taking both the "removing unconscious limiters" and "bones rebuild themselves with a higher density" explanations to their logical extremes. By the time he's in high school, he can shrug off getting hit by a truck and still find the energy to try and beat Izaya to death with a door (which he ripped off of its hinges, of course) in the same night.
Similarly, Shizuo's archnemesis Izaya is faster and more agile than any supposedly "normal" human has a right to be, and that's before we get into his ability to routinely shrug off physical abuse from Shizuo that should have left him a bloody pulp.
Baki the Grappler, full stop. Martial artists can easily hold their own against various wild animals such as bears, tigers and wolves, and Yujiro once punched out an earthquake. And it's relatively realistic for martial-arts anime.
YuYu Hakusho: It's understandable that Yusuke and Kurama can achieve this due to the fact that they're both human/demon hybrids in some way. But God damn it if Kuwabara isn't this trope, what with his ability to knock down trees with several punches.
Genjuro from Senki Zesshou Symphogear can do absolutely insane things like blocking Magical Girl Warrior attacks (once a BFS) with his fists or stomp the ground so hard it sends parts of the road flying because of his martial arts training. Martial arts training whose sole purpose seems to be copying the movesets of Akuma and Bruce Lee.
Chris: What happened?
Genjuro: I neutralized the explosion using a martial arts technique.
Shinji Ogawa, Tsubasa's manager, can walk on water, seal people's movement by stitching their shadows has impropable aiming skills. Because according to Word of God, he is a ninja.
Air Master has several characters capable of this. Tsukio, due to being a construction worker can punch at the speed of a jackhammer, Kinijro killed a bear with a single punch, Julietta could fight with his legs broke and kick people into buildings and through concrete roofs, Sakiyama Kaori is almost as durable as Julitta and always yells herself back to shape, and Yuki's nails are sharp enough that they were almost like blades. Maki, Lucha Master, and Kai however take the cake for being able to jump higher than humanly possible. However, considering it being a of fighting genres, this is a must.
Parodied in One Punch Man where the main character through training becomes strong enough to defeat any opponent with one punch (and he lives in a world where city destroying monsters are quite common). And then it turns out that his training consisted of nothing but an ordinary regiment of sit-ups, push-ups, and running
Saitama is this trope. Bonus points cause the extras from the manga describes most of his training and how most people he meets insist in believing its not this trope. Including the routine that became the secret of his strenght, that could be a new quote for this page.
"Okay, here I go. The deciding factor for the success of this hard training plan is if you can see through to the end (...) You have to force yourself to keep going no matter how though it gets I have become this strong in only three years 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 squats and 10 km running Every single day!!!"
It seems to be almost a law of physics in the setting; several monsters indicated that they gained their powers and transformations by doing one thing obsessively, such as eating huge amounts of crab and turning into a crab monster.
Holyland: In chapter 170, King somehow slices a beer bottle's neck off with his bare hands.
Ran, from Detective Conan, is well acquainted with this trope. She's been studying karate for years, and over the course of the series, has casually bent and broken the poles of streetlights with her fist, kicked down doors, knocked out men far bigger than her, smashed through a glass window without being winded, jumped from her second-floor apartment's window to the street with no problem, kicked the blade of a knife in half, and dodged a bullet. Oh, and she looks just like any other waif-ish high school girl.
Lafarga from Magic Knight Rayearth is a master swordsman who uses no magic. He is, however, capable of creating Razor Wind through air pressure from his sword swings, because he is that strong.
Sailor Moon had this briefly with Sailor Jupiter, a high school girl who in her debut fight, picked a Monster of the Week up over her head and tossed it, without transforming.
That's not a fluke either. She pulls of a similar stunt later in the same season when taking lessons from a figure skater. Between her height and muscles, he's unable to lift her properly. Makoto on the other hand can lift him up and hold him over her head for several seconds without any apparent strain.
Minako. In the anime we 'only' see her routinely Roof Hoppingwithout transforming (something not even Makoto can) and outrun a car minutes after donating blood and with her Heart Crystal extracted (the latter being something that had instantly knocked out everyone else), but in the manga she once had to fight a Brainwashed and Crazy Makoto and defeated her with one kick. And where Makoto is a natural, Minako is shown having trained hard for it.
Sairaorg Bael in High School Dx D went through a rigorous Training from Hell to attain this trope because he couldn't obtain the same power of destruction his two cousins have. Doesn't stop him from being one of the biggest badasses of the series.
Attack on Titan has the characters regularly perform impressive feats, but most of them are within the limitations of what we know of the 3D Manoeuvre Gear. All bets are off with Mikasa and Levi however, who move so fast they can barely be seen and are so agile almost nothing has even the slightest chance of touching them. At some point, this is lampshaded by a crook who points out that Mikasa (a girl who's barely twenty and doesn't pack much muscle mass) could single-handedly take down his entire gang of full-grown (and supposedly trained in hand-to-hand combat) men.
Batman seems to have miraculously avoided being shot in any way that could hurt him, recovered from having his back snapped in half with no ill effects (albeit with the help of a friend with healing powers), and constantly goes toe to toe with superhuman foes and triumphs, just because he's trained that hard. His various pupils, including all the Robins, show similar abilities.
Batman later moved away from this; he wins battles less because of training and more because of tactics. One could say that Batsy's power is Awesomeness by Analysis to an amazing degree; he makes sure he can analyze any weakness as quickly as possible. You never see him fight an amazingly powerful superhuman straight on. More often than not, he avoids gunfire by staying in the shadows where Mooks can't see, wearing the best bulletproof suit millionaire playboy money can buy, and/or disabling enemies before they have a chance to shoot.
Grant Morrison is largely responsible for switching Batman's primary ability to Crazy-Prepared. His Batman is still impossibly capable. Having tea with a monk, he reflexively swapped cups, assuming his was poisoned (it was). In the time it took the monk to blink.
In The Batman Adventures #6, it was a plot point that Bruce Wayne is capable of an unassisted ten-foot vertical jump. The world record is four.
The Robins have their own variations on this. Dick Grayson (now Nightwing) is the child of circus acrobats and is thus incredibly agile. Tim Drake, on the other hand, is more methodical and uses strategy instead of strength most of the time. Jason Todd is powered by RAGE to the point where he uses battle tactics to bring you into a world of pain, even defeating his 'brothers' in combat on several occasions.
Cassandra Cain as Batgirl is possibly one of the most over-the-top examples in Western comics. Being raised as an assassin from birth is used to explain how she can dodge bullets being fired directly at her head from less than a foot away. As a means of explanation that strains credulity, she was not taught to interpret speech or writing but instead taught human movement as a language (e.g. through recognition of tensing in specific arm and hand muscles, avoids gunfire by reacting first away from the direction of a pointed gun). She is actually shown on multiple occasions as basically having Spider-sense. The list goes on with her, but the instances listed contradict the vast majority of her appearances, and are generally ignored.
She can dodge bullets she can't hear or see being fired from, perhaps, miles away.
There are multiple (and explicitly drawn) instances of her dodging gunfire not by predicting where the shot will be fired, but by only stepping aside after the bullet has already left the barrel and is halfway to her head.
Even when she is actually hit by a bullet, she can do so without flinching, because she was conditioned from when she was very young to ignore the pain.
She's kicked a man-sized hole in a steel-reinforced concrete wall
Thrown a Batarang at a target and then changed her mind and outran her own Batarang to reach the target first.
Punched 50 men unconscious in less than five seconds.
In one issue, a group of The Men in Black are viewing security camera footage of her, and immediately name her to be a garden-variety low-level superhuman with enhanced strength and speed. A scientist chimes in and points out that she doesn't pass any test for powers, explaining that Cassandra Cain's feats aren't much higher than what an extremely well-trained human can do; it's the fact that she does such a variety of these things so constantly that makes her seemingly superhuman.
In some story, Robin is amazed by the physical feats of Bane and, logically, assumes he's on venom. But guess what, he is not! Of course it's the training Bane had in prison, silly.
Green Arrow manages to shoot arrows in a physically impossible manner because he was stranded on an island for several years, where the only food he could find was the island's population of extremely agile animals. Coy hints have been dropped here and there that he might be a meta human.
Red Arrow has perfect aim, and is faster than Green Arrow, and does not appear to be a metahuman despite being related to Vandal Savage.
Richard Dragon and Lady Shiva, who both helped train Batman and Vic Sage's Question, also exhibit this. Lady Shiva has very close to the same abilities as her daughter, Cassandra Cain.
Huntress has dead-eye aim with her crossbow and has unusually high endurance and fighting abilities, with her backstory establishing that she was trained to take vengeance on her family's killers. Also, she can perform acrobatics in high heels.
Daredevil's superhuman senses can explain his increased reactions — he notices tension, hints of movement, and so on before anyone else would — but his endurance and strength are pure training.
His archnemesis, Bullseye, is another example; he has no superpowers, but both his ability to aim and his ability to throw projectiles (including incredibly un-aerodynamic things, such as playing cards and straightened paperclips; indeed, it's been said that anything is a deadly weapon in his hands) to lethal effect basically is one. It's one thing to be a brilliant marksman with thrown weapons. It's quite another to make the objects you throw defy the laws of physics.
In MAX series, Punisher is hardcore enough to take enough damage to kill a thousand men, but just keeps coming back. Sample Inner Monologue after being blasted at point-blank range with a shotgun: "That's a rib gone. Not broken. Gone." His enemy, Barracuda, is essentially an evil version of the Punisher and just as hardy.
In the original War Zone series, Punisher once went up a mercenary named Roc, who was impervious to harm. The explanation given was that he was incredibly muscular and had no nerve endings. This doesn't explain how he was able to survive being shot at point blank range with a double-barreled shot gun, or how he shrugged off getting a large knife shoved between his shoulder blades.
Spider-Man, during the countless occasions that he, for one reason or another, temporarily loses his spider-powers. Subverted by a still-powered Spider-Man. In one arc, he underwent some "chi" training so he wouldn't always act on instinct. Later, when chased by homing bullets, he attempts to catch them out of the air. He does snag one, but the other drills straight through his palm and into his shoulder, at which point Pete passes out.
Ozymandias from Watchmen. His feats are mostly believable through most of the story, but in the final act, he catches a bullet. (It tears up his hand, and he doesn't quite believe it himself.) There's an interview he has at the end of the second-to-last comic where he firmly believes any normal human can be just as built as he is, you just need the will to see it through.
Unsurprisingly, Grant Morrison drove this trope to the hilt in his run on Doom Patrol with Flex Mentallo, a forgotten hero obviously modeled after old Charles Atlas ads (a bit too obviously, as a trademark lawsuit kept the comics from being reprinted for some years) with the ability to warp reality by flexing his muscles.
Karate Kid of Legion of Super-Heroes. The Legion's constitution requires every member to have an intrinsic superpower, and numerous Legionnaire hopefuls were denied membership because their powers were not sufficiently impressive. However, Karate Kid does not have an actual superpower; his abilities are instead the result of intensive training in (fictionalized) martial arts, and the Legion as a whole tends to gloss over the subject of just what Karate Kid's superpower actually is - after he demonstrated that he could put the ridiculously powerful Silver AgeSuperboy in a headlock, he was in. Somewhere along his history, the ability to inherently determine the weaknesses of opponents became the official justification for why he was more than just a martial artist.
In Mark Waid's threeboot Legion, Karate Kid is noted as being not only a master of pretty much every human and alien fighting style, he's actually invented entirely new ones to take advantage of the abilities his flight ring gives him. Then there's the time when he kickedPhysical GodDarkseidin the face◊.
In the world of Warren Ellis's Global Frequency, biofeedback not only allows you to unlock greater control of pain and strength, but accelerated healing, raising the question of why Mother Nature would lock away normal humans' potential in the first place. In GF #10, two biofeedback nuts throw down against each other. They ignore blow after punishing blow, shrug off gunshot- and stab-wounds, and continue functioning despite bent-backwards joints and a plucked-out eye. The fight only ends when one rips the other's arm off with his bare hands. It's worth noting what the backup plan if the good biofeedbacker lost was - destroy the entire building complex with an air strike.
Flash villain The Top's lifelong obsession with spinning tops led him to teach himself how to spin really fast — fast enough to deflect bullets. Also, years of spinning increased his intelligence and gave him immense psionic powers because apparently, all the spinning caused dormant brain cells to move to the outer areas of his brain. And, of course, he also has the Required Secondary Power of not getting dizzy. The sheer absurdity of this did eventually lead to him being explicitly given psionic powers.
While most of Marvel's Inhumans get superpowers from ritualistic exposure to the mutagenic Terrigen Mist, Karnak forewent the ritual and instead spent his adolescence in a monastery, training in physical and mental discipline. This left him with super-calloused skin, complete conscious control over his body's autonomic functions, and the extrasensory ability to sense the structural weakness in anything or anyone, allowing him to beat stronger opponents and shatter objects as hard as steel with a single well-aimed blow.
The Mandarin is known for his ability to beat the tar out of Iron Man with his bare hands. It's explicitly stated at one stage that he has Ki Attacks, and his ten rings of power are sometimes claimed to reinforce his structural integrity.
The Immortal Iron Fist Danny Rand, even when not harnessing magic dragon chi, can do things most normal humans can't, like survive a massive explosion meant to take out an entire city and cutting through the achilles tendon of a giant with a karate chop. A few of the other Immortal Weapons also qualify, such as Fat Cobra, who is as big as a sumo wrestler and fast as a ninja, and has expressed the belief that with the power of chi, an ant can wrestle an elephant into submission.
"The bigger they are, the harder they fall when you cut their Achilles tendon"
The Phantom, the guy in the purple suit. Said to have trained by lifting a growing cow every day (no doubt taken from history via a Greek man named Milo, who is held by legend to be the strongest man who ever lived. Milo lifted a growing calf until it matured into a bull, thus giving Milo incredible strength).
Ogun is such a great swordsman that it made him telepathic, as in he can attack people with a sword and then they turn into martial arts masters.
The Taskmaster, aside from his "photographic reflexes", has no superpowers at all. Yet he still can stand toe to toe with plenty of heroes or villains by virtue of the fact that he's incredibly fit, and those reflexes. He even can achieve a limited form of superspeed by watching recordings of himself in fast-forward.
One of the Taskmaster's favorite trainees in Avengers: The Initiative is Melee, whose power is that she knows martial arts. All of them.
MVP was at Camp Hammond before the Taskmaster, but he's a pretty strong example himself. His incredible physical capabilities mirror those of Captain America, but are due to a severe, revolutionary diet and exercise regimen that he'd been put through since infancy. Contrary to what was assumed when MVP was recruited, his great-grandfather being the inventor of Captain America's Super Serum was more or less a coincidence. Former Nazi scientist Baron von Blitzschlag is stunned to hear this; he'd never have imagined such a perfect specimen would be the sole product of eating right and working out.
In "Johnny Saturn"Johnny Saturn I, aka John Underhall, appears somewhat superhuman, able to defeat whole teams of super-powered foes, or leap from a great distance and catch hold of a careening semi. It is soon found out that Underhall has paid a tremendous price for these 'abilities,' and that his body is worn out, he's broken every bone in his body including his spine, and he's a pain killer addict.
John Doe of Nth Man: The Ultimate Ninja is, by all accounts, a non-powered ordinary man. Even so, he can dodge bullets with Super Reflexes, kill a roomful of men in several seconds, and alter the perceptions of everyone nearby with a chant. Justified in that he has been trained as a Ninja since the age of nine.
Sin City has its fair share. Miho, Kevin, and Wallace all perform feats that should be impossible for normal humans, apparently due to their martial arts abilities. Miho kicked a man's head off his shoulders (granted, she sliced his neck first but that's still damned impressive), Wallace used a meditation technique to remember events after he was drugged and could catch a thrown knife in a dark forest despite not knowing he was being watched, and Kevin can apparently make people go numb with a quick jab. There was also the Elite Mook from Big Fat Kill who could cause intense pain just by touch.
Also, while technically not martial artists, characters such as Marv, Dwight, Manute, and even Hartigan display abilities that should be impossible even though they are technically normal people.
Elektra as seen in her Dark Reign crossover was dodging bullets. Mostly. Corrupt government agents were plinking at her. The commanding officer figures out the best BLAM! Don't go on about it too much and she can be hit.
When Storm lost her powers, she just relied on her natural abilities. She could have taken on Galactus like that. Same thing when Wonder Woman lost her powers too.
Speaking of the X-Men, a lot of them are capable of extraordinary feats unrelated to their powers. Somewhat attributed to the fact that, instead of gym, their students take Danger Room classes.
Moon Knight is also a notable example, being basically an Ax-CrazyBatman in white. After he was forced to register as a superhero and let in with the understanding that while he was borderline on the psych tests, at least he wasn't powerful enough to cause real harm, the Profile suggested that his insanity was his superpower.
Shang-Chi, a Marvel kung-fu artist with no supernatural powers, can dodge bullets, can block bullets, survive subzero temperatures half-naked, and hold his own against the Thing!
Aquaman is a borderline case: Technically, he doesn't have super-strength, but he has an Atlantean physique, built to withstand the ocean currents - Which means that he's stronger than an average surface dweller of the same build.
In Kick-Ass, Big Daddy and Hit-Girl (in particular) are capable of crazy stunts and incredible exploits by virtue of good ol' training and perseverance. Kick-Ass and Red Mist are certainly aware of the trope, but don't get anywhere near that.
In My Little Unicorn, to compensate for his lack of magical ability, the Grand Ruler trains Lightning Dawn intensively to be physically stronger and faster than the other characters. Somehow, he still finds himself tuckered out by carrying crates and baskets of vegetables.
Film - Animated
Wreck-It Ralph: The title character can smash jawbreakers thought to be indestructible, punch a building and break it with his bare hands, etc. Also, his fists move at a very fast speed, fast enough to make it look like he's using a jackhammer.
Disney's Mulan has most of the Chinese army partake in this trope. The "I'll Make A Man Out of You" montage even shows their training, which involves feats like breaking cement blocks with their faces. Shang is initially the only one able to do all of those things, but everyone, even Mulan, eventually starts managing.
Kung Fu Panda gleefully takes the trope and runs with it off of a cliff. Apparently with enough training you can make someone else explode by flexing your pinky finger.
In general, it is implied if not outright shown that the Furious Five can handle just about anything thrown at them in a kung fu fight, no matter whether that particular animal is truly that strong or resilient in real life. Mantis, somehow, is able to hold up a broken suspension bridge with five other people on it, including the very heavy Tai Lung and Tigress, while Crane, though spindly as hell, is able to carry Tigress out of the gorge. It is Shifu, Tai Lung, and Po who truly take the cake however, as between the two climactic fights they engage in, these three somehow manage to survive things no one possibly could, emerging only with mussed fur, bent whiskers, and the occasional dazed stagger.
Film - Live Action
Chiun in Remo Williams The Adventure Begins is a master of Sinanju, and by virtue of this ultimate martial art is able to dodge any attack, including bullets at any range, as well as run on water near the end of the film.
A necessary part of live action movies that feature actors who are clearly not trained athletes. In the final scene of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Angelina Jolie, who is athletic but not particularly buff, takes a series of punches and kicks that would break the bones of an offensive tackle, then picks her 110 lb. body up off the ground, beats the bad guy, and sprints away at top speed.
Kill Bill, where the bride punches her way out of a coffin and the rest of the cast are no slouches, either.
Pretty much every non-powered hero from Watchmen. The Comedian is able to punch through brick, survive getting his head slammed into a granite counter-top and jump from an aircraft that looks to be almost 3 men off the ground and not give a damn. Ozymandias is not only able to catch a bullet, but can jump nearly his entire height (almost six feet) from a sitting position. Rorschach is shown to practically run up a tower in one instance.
Any ninja in Ninja Assassin can do things like "shadow-blending" (where they can literally disappear in front of you), moving at ridiculous speeds, and self-healing with sufficient training. Halfway through the film, they slice up a well-trained Europol squad but get the tables reversed on them at the end in a Big Damn Heroes moment. Can't really "shadow-blend" with floodlights in your face.
Sam Sei in Full Contact went from being a clumsy, abject coward to a fully fledged badass after committing the ultimate act of cowardice by agreeing to betray his best friend and work for his Bad Bad cousin in exchange for his life. In less than a year he is able to wield a gun like nobody's business and no longer fears death.
In Cinderella Man, Jim Braddock explains that he developed an unusually strong left arm when he had to use it to haul fish for his day job after injuring his right.
Deconstructed in Hanna. The titular character is hunted constantly, every person she's close to gets killed, and to top it all off, she's part of the destroyed Super Soldier project.
Cinematic examples of the Masked Luchador such as El Santo often demonstrate this trope. Luchadors are shown performing extraordinary feats of strength and will power, but are not treated as "superhuman" in the ordinary sense of the word.
Most of the Joes from G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra are pretty impressive, but Snake Eyes takes the cake. He does more during the Paris chase scene than the rest of his team combined (including catching up to Baroness' Humvee on foot... faster than his teammates in Powered Armor and a motorcycle.
Played for Laughs in Kung Pow! Enter the Fist, where thanks to spending his life under constant attack the Chosen One can create wind by spinning a staff really fast, do several dozen somersaults in one jump, and do push-ups without using his hands. Master Pain/Betty is somehow even more ridiculous, given he can take four people whacking on him with sticks without flinching, including repeated blowsto the crotch.
Only a name drop in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when Dr. Frank N. Furter says of his newly-finished creation Rocky that "he carries the Charles Atlas seal of approval". Near the end of the movie, it does take quite a number of shots from Riff Raff's "anti-matter laser" to bring down Rocky. In the original musical, the song "I Can Make You A Man" and its reprise were both originally called "Charles Atlas".
Almost any film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger will have Arnold's character demonstrate this, unless the character actually is superpowered. Prominent examples include Commando where Arnold's character is able to rip a phone-booth out of the ground and hoist both it (and the man currently using it) over his head, and The Running Man, where he is able to rip an entire weight-machine off the floor and hold both it (and the woman currently sitting in it) up one-handed without visible effort.
In the Serbian film Underground, Blackie is an electrician by trade, which means he gets shocked all the time and has become completely immune. In an opening scene, he sticks live wires in his mouth without discomfort while fixing a ceiling fan. When Nazis attempt to torture him with a defibrillator, it seems to have no effect on him, even on the highest setting. Confused, a Nazi checks to see if the machine is working and is instantly electrocuted.
Raven of the HIVE series is this, which she passes on to Wing, who attempts to pass it on to Shelby, although both Alphas are still working at it.
The Bene Gesserit in Dune train themselves to alter individual molecules in their blood streams, mind-control others by voice alone, being able to hold their breath for unrealistic amounts of time, stop aging, neutralize any poison or drug, and possibly see the future. Oh, and they get Batman-level Kung Fu, too. They only get the future-vision and molecular control from the Spice. Everything else is pure Charles Atlas, with a few hints of selective breeding.
The Honored Matres are even more badass.
Mentats are "human computers". They are trained to possess photographic memories and deduce perfectly logical conclusions from the barest minimum of information. They were also said to be capable of outperforming advanced computers— which were banned in the "Butlerian Jihad" since it was believed to be a horrible crime to create a mechanical brain. However somehow mentats still couldn't duplicate the computers necessary for space-navigation, which resulted in the need for "Spice" in order to give the future-clairvoyance necessary for it.
And what happens when you combine them? Duncan Idaho, Charles Atlas Squared. Generations of breeding, then brought back from the dead, a master swordsman with Mentat powers unlocking a millennium of genetic memory of Bene Gesserit training.
Mentat Emperor Paul Atreides, the Kwisatz Haderach. He spent some of his life as a Fremen, which means he, in addition to being the product of generations of breeding, and very intensive training all round (Bene Gesserit, Mentat AND physical combat), he can do all the Fremen tricks. Yes, this includes riding the worms.
None of the Dune examples really count as this trope, since they all rely heavily on genetic engineering rather than pure training. It's just engineering done the hard way via hundreds of generations of guided breeding rather than directly manipulating DNA. Far from mere "hints" of selective breeding, it's the entire point of the whole series.
Doc Savage, from pulp era novels, is a result of a rigorous Training from Hell routine from birth initiated by his father. "Doc Savage Magazine" discussed the training routine, in 23 articles published from July 1935 to May 1937.
A convention from the Discworld series is that survival is a learned skill - the longer you live, the longer you're able to keep living.
Cohen the Barbarian is a lifelong adventurer who survived to become a very old man, making him for all intents and purposes unstoppable. Interesting Times mentions his "economy of movement", so that Cohen and the other oldsters of the Silver Horde, are simply always where they want to be, which is never where anyone's sword is. It also helps that Genghiz Cohen and his horde have become Genre Savvy enough to recognize how Discworld works. Five or so noble men facing an evil army will enjoy some success.
His daughter, Conina, is an even better example due to Discworld genetics. From her mother she got good looks and a voice that can make a porn star blush. From dear old dad she got "sinews you could moor a ship with, muscles solid as a plank and reflexes like a snake on a hot tin roof" plus (ahem) heroic instincts and an ability to use anything as a deadly weapon. This doesn't really help in her chosen profession of hairdressing. Being able to disembowel someone with a pair of shears and blind someone with a pair of bobby pins from 20 paces doesn't really look good on her resumé.
Captain Carrot also has some degree of this, exemplified by being able to pierce a stone column with his sword. When the abovementioned Silver Horde was confronted by him, they wisely chose to give up. This is because Genre Savvy works both ways: yes, the small Silver Horde will defeat the big army any time. But guess what happens when a sole hero faces the Horde?
Tarzan's abilities are mostly this; growing up under very harsh conditions and among apes much stronger than any normal human, he grew to be able to keep up. How strong is Tarzan, you ask? In one story, four burly sailors are struggling with Lord Greystoke's shipping trunk, so he casually picks it up and carries it himself! If the sailors can haul their own weight, a reasonable strength at the time, and weigh about 175 lbs., then he's casually shifting some 700 lbs. or more.
The protagonist of Kristin Cashore's novel Graceling has this as a magical talent. In a setting where certain people are "Graced" with a magically-enhanced natural talent that can range from mind control to swimming to cooking, the heroine Katsa is Graced with superhuman survival skills that let her function perfectly without sleep or food for days, withstand blizzards, instinctively know how to live in the wilderness, see in the dark, navigate without a compass, defeat anyone in any kind of combat, and kill anything that she sees as a threat with her bare hands.
Claw from the Andrew Vachss Burke book Terminal trained himself to be able to crush steel, gaining his moniker through his vice-like grip.
Also Ghost from Shella, who can actually see instant-kill points on the human body and has such tight control over his muscles that he can apply precise pressure to a postal scale to within hundredths of an ounce.
Yeoman from the Wild Cards series. His skills at concealment and archery verge on the superhuman, due to his being a highly-experienced Vietnam veteran who spent years using bows for silent efficiency on a great many jungle missions.
Hari/Caine in The Acts of Caine. In Heroes Die he tries to vent his anger against a gel punching bag that hardens against force up to the strength of human bone before resetting. Well before he's gotten the rage out of his system, he's easily, repeatedly working it over.
Rook in Astral Cafe is considered the most dangerous bartender in the universe. He spent years training to be the ultimate warrior under the greatest masters alive and then five years honing his abilities in constant battle against alien monsters.
Dime Novel hero Nick Carter was trained practically since birth by his father to be a mental and physical marvel.
One early Nick CarterDime Novel neatly summarizes Nick's training and abilities:"Giants were like children in his grasp. He could fell an ox with one blow of his small, compact fist. Old Sim Carter had made the physical development of his son one of the studies of his life. Only one of the studies, however. Young Nick's mind was stored with knowledgeďż˝knowledge of a peculiar sort. His gray eyes had, like an Indian's, been trained to take in minutest details fresh for use. His rich, full voice could run the gamut of sounds, from an old woman's broken, querulous squack to the deep, hoarse notes of a burly ruffian. And his handsome face could, in an instant, be distorted into any one of a hundred types of unrecognizable ugliness. He was a master of disguise, and could so transform himself that even old Sim could not recognise him. And his intellect, naturally keen as a razor blade, had been incredibly sharpened by the judicious cultivation of the old man."
The Vampire Diaries's experienced hunters can resist compulsion, especially if they've had training.
24's Jack Bauer has displayed an ability to shrug off injuries that would put an ordinary human being out of commission for weeks, from a broken rib to being rendered clinically dead for seven minutes, due to his sheer badassery. This is not to mention the fact that he never seems to need the toilet. It's enough for him to be used in tedious memes that once focused on Chuck Norris.
Xena: Warrior Princess. Just see the Wikipedia entry. Sometimes she does temporarily develop actual supernatural powers when the plot demands it, but most of her impossible abilities originate from the fact that she's Just That Good. It is strongly hinted, if never explicitly stated, that Ares is Xena's father.
Subverted in LOST. Locke tries to claim that the reason he survived a gunshot is that it hit meat that used to have an important but expendable organ; it wasn't there anymore. Other characters recognize that for the b.s. it is; a shot in the chest is nasty business no matter what.
Unless The Island still has business with you, in which case you are simply incapable of dying.
In Hercules The Legendary Journeys, Iolaus was able to stay underwater for a long time. He explains that he picked up meditation techniques that slow down your breathing and heartrate.
Warehouse 13 has Charles Atlas' underpants, which literally grant superpowers through density manipulation.
Somewhat unclear in Psych: Shawn Spencer's Hyper Awareness and Photographic Memory is described in a way that makes it seem like this trope — the fact that he was schooled to notice and recall details from a very young age by his father is given as the sole explanation for his abilities (and the source of much tension between him and his father), but his talents seem to be far more advanced than anything that can be simply taught. On the other hand, since some people do naturally possess such abilities due to unusual brain structure, etc, a simple logical explanation is that Shawn possesses a double-whammy of natural abilities and extensive training, but this scenario is never discussed.
Ask any guitar hero (or any great or at least technically advanced musician) why they're so good, even if they seem able to pull things off that no human being should be able to do, and the response is the same: "Practice."
Steve Vai is one of the more extreme modern examples. Back in the 80's and early 90's, he practiced ''10 hours a day. Now he's regarded as one of the best and most important guitarists of the twentieth century.
Kalimán, the Mexican superhero who first appeared in a 1960s radio show before going on to appear in comic books and film, is a superb example of the trope. He demonstrates numerous superpowers including levitation, telepathy, remote viewing, telekinesis, astral projection, control of the involuntary functions of the body, hypnosis, and self-healing. Yet Kalimán makes it clear that anyone could learn to do the same things through study and hard work.
The Shadow achieved his invisibility and mind-reading powers through intense training in India. (Where he also learned at least one handy wrestling hold.)
Ciaphas Cain can hold his own in a swordfight against a genetically engineered super soldier. Subverted somewhat in that Cain admits he wouldn't have the endurance for a long fight against a traitor marine; his fights are won by cunning and practice rather than an ability to punch through mountains.
Eisenhorn has dueled and killed everything from a Chaos Space Marine to a Daemonhost. By the final book he's so injured he's practically falling apart, but it only slows him down slightly.
The Catachan guardsman Sly Marbo is a version of this and an in-story Memetic Badass; his reputation states that he has, among other things, killed an ork warboss, taken out a Tyranid lictor, destroyed an entire enemy armored column by booby trapping a ravine, and captured an enemy command post singlehandedly to kill its commander and entire bodyguard. It's gotten to the point that the colonel who debriefs him can recite the commendation for the Star of Terra in a single breath, and has a box full of the awards that Marbo never keeps.
A Heavy Bolter is an advanced weapon that fires .75 calibre explosive rockets. Normal humans can't use regular Bolters without breaking their arms, forcing the Imperial Guard to use Heavy Bolters as fixed emplacements, and the superhuman Space Marines may carry it around like a squad support weapon, but still struggle to handle the thing with sustained fire. This facet of 40k lore needs to be explained to Gunnery Sergeant Harker of the Catachan Jungle Fighters. He uses this beast of the weapon in the same way a lot of Guardsmen use their Lasguns, and he can move through terrain like a scout with it. It barely encumbers him at all. Not to mention his personal Crowning Moment of Awesome; he was on an assignment when a Tyranid Ravener burst out of the ground beneath him and knocked his bolter away out of his hands, only for Harker to catch the thing in a headlock and crush it's neck with his biceps. Seriously Badass.
Given the speed at which a Dungeons & Dragons character gains experience, one can go from level 1 to level 20 in a bare six months — and that's if you use the optional training rules which make it longer and costlier. Given how Hit Points work in D&D, a normal person would have extreme difficulty killing a high-level character in his sleep by stabbing him in the throat with a two-handed sword.
The special abilities many classes gain bear some mentioning. Rogues can hone their reflexes to the point where they can dodge a fireball—while standing at the epicenter of its explosion (though a more technical read of the rules might indicate that they need at least a little cover or wiggle room to evade an explosion capable of leveling mountains unscathed), and Barbarians become so resistant to damage that an ordinary human with an ordinary knife could never hope to hurt them. Monks take this trope to a whole other level, training so hard that they literally no longer count as mortals and become Outsiders, stop aging, become immune to poisons, have fists that count as harder-than-steel magical weapons, and can heal wounds by meditating on them. And dodge fireballs like a rogue.
Martial adepts are explicitly based on wuxia films and anime, and consequently, they're all over this trope. Crusaders can regenerate anything short of instant death, cut through the armor plating of an iron golem with a normal sword, and issue commands so forceful they break the action economy. Warblades can strike an opponent fourteen times in six seconds, ignore poison and disease by gritting their teeth, and wield a two-handed sword while grappled. Swordsages are the most infamous: they can produce flames with their bare hands, throw basically anything, and bend shadows to turn invisible, teleport, and fly. Unlike the monk, whose more outlandish powers are generally Supernatural and therefore magical to an extent, these abilities are all classified as Extraordinary - they work perfectly even when there's an antimagic field up.
4E averts this trope in regards to hit points, which no longer represent pure vitality and are more like "plot points" instead - minion monsters only have 1hp regardless of level, a character isn't really considered "hurt" until they've lost half their hp, and large quantities can be easily regained by inspiration as easily as by magic. This is actually returning to a concept originally invoked in the first edition's Dungeon Master's Guide, which justifies hit points by saying that they do not represent mere physical toughness, but all the things that can make a character hard to kill (toughness, divine favor, sheer dumb luck, etc). Conversely, this trope is alive and well in regards to character abilities, and is the official explanation for the martial power source. How can a rogue turn himself invisible, or a warlord rally an unconscious ally back to fighting form? Training and practice.
This is explicitly the case in The World Of Aarn. In the setting, magic is a simple fact of life, often taking the role that electricity does in our world, and it's also present in every living thing. As a result, Mundanes, those who don't use straight out magic, end up having their intrinsic magic express itself physically, so they can hit much harder, take harder blows, jump 12 feet in the air, and resist magical attacks to a greater degree than mages can.
Subverted in Mage: The Ascension, where the monks of the Akashic Brotherhood gain tremendous powers through intense training, meditation and the practice of martial arts, but even the Brothers admit that they are breaking the laws of physics as the sleepers know them.
In Exalted you can perform incredible feats with charms, but even without enhancing your performance with them, an elder Exalt (with more than five dots in the attribute) can jump impossible distances and punch holes in steel.
Alex Kidd Sega's former mascot has trained in the "Shellcore" technique enabling him to alter the size and toughness of his fists through sheer willpower and enables him to shatter rocks with his bare fists.
In Doom, all that is required to literally fight your way to Hell and back is to have trained at boot camp. The story goes that Doom Guy was apparently a fairly/very competent trooper, who got reassigned to Mars as a grunt after punching out a superior officer when given a direct order to fire on innocent civilians. Of course, shortly after he arrived, shit hit the fan. Figures, huh?
In the first Doom novel, he gets the hell beat out of him a lot and has a lot of trouble going on. Thank goodness for the in-canon magical healing balls of creepy.
Also if you believe the comic, Doom Guy was quite unhinged and seemed likely to be the kind of guy who you'd expect to be able to survive a trip to hell and back just because of his sheer lack of a grip on reality. Whether or not this came before or as a result of the Hell invasion is open to interpretation, however.
Final Fantasy lives and breathes this trope. It's got plenty of heroes with explicitly magical nature and cool powers, some nonhumans, a few cyborgs... and then it's got the non-powered heroes who easily keep up with them:
Thanks to some slightly buggy code in Final Fantasy VI, Sabin the martial artist achieved Memetic Mutation by being able to suplex a Soul Train. In the actual game, he also held up a giant collapsing mansion for several minutes by simply standing under the doorframe and posing heroically; in the ending cinematic, he also saves Edgar from an I-beam that, if Sabin were not in the party, takes three people to lift.
Ironically averted in the case of Zell in Final Fantasy VIII, whose extreme physical power comes from junctioning Guardian Forces to boost his physical abilities. Well, except for that one limit break where he runs a lap around the entire goddamn planet and uses the inertia to damage the enemy.
The Fighting-Type in Pokémon would fit this trope for the most part. Most of them have some absurd combat abilities judging by the Pokédex data, such as Machamp's absurdly fast punches at a rate of 1,000 punches doled out per every two seconds. Fighting-Type moves, usually consisting of punches and kicks, can bring down Rock and Steel Pokemon in a single hit. They're weak to Flying , Psychic and Fairy types though, and Fighting moves deal zero damage toGhostTypes. Bruno, Chuck, Brawly, Maylene, Marshall and Korrina all specialize in Fighting-type Pokémon. And they themselves tend to be pretty buff too, but within human standards.
This does not, however, explain Lady, who is quite mortal (albeit descended from an unnamed mortal priestess whose blood was used to seal Temen-Ni-Gru), yet is capable of incredible feats of agility, hauling around a squad's worth of firearms on her person, and takes a knife through the thigh and continues to stagger on out of sheer heroic determination. It's even remarked upon in-game that she has no real exceptional strength of body — it seems these kind of abilities are standard-issue in the Devil May Cry 'verse if you just believe hard enough.
What's also quite bizarre is that considering how much the thigh stab pained her, when Dante defeats her he has to have done one or more of the following- shot her, stabbed her, slashed her, beat the shit out of her with nunchaku, beat her up with spiked metal gauntlets, played a guitar at her in order to hit her with bats and/or lightning, etc.. And she apparently survives this despite being clearly a strong but not supernaturally so human.
Kirei Kotomine from Fate/stay night is a former Church Executioner, and his hand-to-hand combat abilities are terrifyingly good. In addition to standard Church abilities mentioned above, in Fate/Zero, he shows the ability to block bullets from an automatic weapon, and matches a guy explicitly using magic to move at twice, and then three times normal speed without apparent effort ("So you're moving twice as fast? Then I just need to adjust my timing."). In the Visual Novel itself he doesn't get much chance to show off, but when he does... he defeats a Servant. Granted, an Assassin-class Servant, who are among the weakest in combat, but still, he defeated a Servant! He also manages to hold his own against Shirou, who's using Archer's powers and fighting with the skill of a servant.
The Crusader games both use and subvert this trope. In the first game, the opening cinematic shows a single mech killing two Silencers. The third (the eventual player character), not embroiled in their argument, managed to get out of its field of view and toss a grenade. The character then goes on to mow his way through hundreds of enemies in the game, shrugging off grenade blasts, and destroying a few dozen of the mechs that killed his compatriots. Then, in the second game, after sitting in a cramped lifepod for almost two days, he proceeds to kill two guards at range firing a burst from his assault rifle one-handed. Finally, the second game seems to take roughly a week, with no noticeable breaks for rest, or even eating or drinking.
Lost Odyssey is a recent example. Main character Kaim Argonar is shown in the opening scene working as a mercenary for Uhra, in the midst of a heavy battle. While Kaim's allies are getting stomped (roughly 20 of them seem to die for every one enemy soldier they manage to kill), Kaim is busy tearing the enemy to shreds by the dozens, and even killing an enormous war engine equipped with flamethrowers with a single blow. However, considering the fact that Kaim has lived 1,000 years and spent most of them fighting, the superhuman combat prowess and unbelievable swordsmanship he displays aren't really that surprising.
The series is full of examples on or near the line between this and Ki Attacks, but one that stands out as the latter is Blanka's power to discharge electricity, which he learned from electric eels.
In the Manga backstory, during their final battle, Gouken and Akuma leveled a mountain range with a barrage of aerial Hadoken shots, even though firing a single one is already supposed to be extremely impressive.
Parodied with Sakura's backstory. After seeing her erstwhile teacher, Dan, perform a pathetic little Hadoken once, she's able to toss a full-powered Hadoken with very little effort. What makes her scary is that she's a normal schoolgirl who had never trained before in her life, indicating she could potentially become the most powerful warrior in the franchise before her 16th birthday if she had half of Ryu's dedication to training. (And she does.)
Kuzuki of Fate/stay night, being trained as an assassin, is able to fight on par with the superhuman Servants (while being buffed by his own Servant, but it still says something about his ability).
Archer himself. Saber notes that it's not that he has an exceptional amount of power or anything, he just trained and fought his entire life. She says that Shirou's style of fighting being patterned on Archer's is an excellent idea because with the proper work he could become Archer's equal, possessing similar latent potential. Makes sense considering he was Shirou in life and not some superhuman genius like Tohsaka or Hercules or King Arturia. All his power comes from training, a little bit of projection and his reality marble that lets him beamspam swords. He also happened to make that so it still fits.
Let's not forget the Church's Executors. Magi like Tohsaka Rin and Emiya Shirou can magically buff themselves up and sprint over fifty kilometers per hour. Exceptional Executors like Kotomine Kirei can do this without any magic while carrying Ilya and dodging and blocking Assassin's daggers. He can also beat down a sword-covered shirou to the point where he can feel pain despite his sense of pain dying a few hours earlier. He does this after not having a heart for almost 2 days, having not trained for about 10 years and with only what he calls a "half assed" qu dao.
Assassin from Fate/stay night has Tsubame Gaeshi, a sword strike that contains three slashes happening at the same time. This initially doesn't seem like a big deal, especially in comparison to some of the more ridiculous Noble Phantasms, like a sheath that bequeaths immortality and a spear that hits before it attacks, instead of the regular way around. The difference is that Tsubame Gaeshi is not a Noble Phantasm. It's not even magecraft. It's a physical technique. He was sitting around trying to think of how to cut down a swallow in flight, and decided that you'd have to be able to perform more than one slash at a time. He promptly decided that this was impossible, and then did it anyway. According to extra material, he brute forces one of the 5 remaining true magics by swinging his sword really fast.
Solid Snake is a clone of a legendary soldier, and picks up some impressive gear of the course of his adventures, but is otherwise entirely normal. That doesn't stop him killing Mind Screwing floating psychics and giant nuclear-armed walking tanks, and in Metal Gear Solid 4, he cuts through three war zones and two enemy bases while having the body of a seventy-year-old. In Metal Gear Solid, he destroys a tank using only grenades because he didn't have any anti-tank weapons. This is referenced to by Otacon in Guns of the Patriots, in which Otacon calls him "the most hardcore badass on the planet" for managing it.
His clone brother Liquid Snake is similarly impressive, shooting down F-16s with a Hind helicopter, which he's able to pilot in the middle of a blizzard. Surviving the crash of said Hind, the destruction of Metal Gear REX with him aboard, falling 3 stores off REX's remains after a fistfight with Solid Snake, and being repeatedly shot with a machine gun. It takes FOXDIE forcing his heart to stop beating to actually kill him.
There's also Gray Fox who, even before he gained his cyborg exoskeleton, was capable of blocking machinegun fire with his sword. Gene from Portable Ops was also disturbingly fast. To the point of dodging rail gun fire at point blank range.
One of The Reveals in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is that Jetstream Sam's only augmentation is an arm. Apart from an exoskeleton which is inferior to cyborg tech, he's otherwise human. His ability to defeat Raiden the first time and still give him trouble after the Mid-Season Upgrade is otherwise due to pure, inhuman skill. It's even mentioned that feats he manages in the prologue, such as taking on a squad of rifle-armed soldiers with only his sword and killing them all without a scratch, are things he's been pulling off before he got that augmentation.
Due to the game's mechanics, City of Heroes and City of Villains includes 'natural' characters who shield themselves with protective balls of fire, regenerate instantly from near-fatal wounds, phase out of normal existence, or fly. Canonically, Malta's paramilitary forces have been quite capable of facing down evil interdimensional invaders assuming even numbers (who seldom took casualties when facing the American military), and can put up a hefty challenge to individual Heroes and Villains. Manticore's archery ability is similar to Green Arrows, in addition to being nearly impossible to kill.
Of particular note is the Ninjitsu power set. Most of its powers are fairly reasonable (increased agility, better perception, etc.), but the final power in the set (Kuji-In Retsu) allows you to alter the way time and space affect you, turning you into a nigh-untouchable blur of attacks.
Partly averted in The King of Fighters series, where several of the characters introduced in that series have powers due to "Orochi blood", and the China team's powers come from being psychics (and Athena's partly because she's the reincarnation of a goddess). The rest of them, though, can throw fireballs just because they practiced.
Every single crack X-COM trooper/operative ever probably counts. They can go from complete losers who can't hit the side of the barn at point blank (and these guys are meant to be the cream of the crop from the world's Spec Ops, Military and Police forces!) to absolutely amazing marksmen who can run for several kilometers in powered armour that doesn't assist them whilst lugging giant guns that are bigger than grenade launchers. Let's not forget the ammunition and other supplies either. They go through Field Training From Hell to get to that stage, though, and the mortality rate can be quite high... even if they get a good suit of armour.
Pretty much the entire point of Crackdown. The agent you control is already enhanced by surgery and cybernetics, but you can drastically increase his already impressive strength and agility through sheer practice. The agent starts the game able to jog at 20 mph, leap 20 feet into air, and lift roughly 2 tons. Simply by jumping across rooftops a lot and punching lots of criminals to death, you can increase these abilities to jogging 40mph, leaping 50 feet and carrying 10 tons. Training with explosives makes the same grenades you pick up off gang corpses explode bigger and harder. Even more ridiculously, you can also make your bullets hit harder and force cars to physically transform into better versions of themselves by training your firearms and driving skills, giving some cars powers like guns and jumping abilities.
Xenosaga does the same thing, if not to the same extent; most of the characters are cyborgs, synthezoid, or some Biblical figure, but JinUzukislices through a mecha with a katana. He's one of the few non-special-powered-people in the game, and while it could be argued that sharing the same mom with Shion might make him special, nothing is said to that end.
Ryu Hayabusa from Ninja Gaiden proudly states that his "strength comes from training, not from some curse in my blood". It must really have been Training from Hell, as he performs undeniably superhuman feats. In the XBox version, he can launch armoured men with a single slash and keep them airborne while attacking, leap from wall to wall to continue a wallrun, block bullets with a wooden sword, run and leap unhindered by a 100-poundBFS on his back, and zoom with an unaugmented bow. As in, naked eye. That doesn't even cover the full extent of his abilities. Subverted when Doku's ability to awaken the Fiend blood in him suggests that his power comes from Fiend abilities, but then double subverted when this does absolutely nothing to affect Ryu's combat prowess, suggesting otherwise.
Lune Zoldark of Super Robot Wars. This Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter is sent away by daddy dearest to a space colony around Jupiter, where she trains endlessly. In the Super Robot Wars Original Generation sub-series, Master Rishu Togo states this particular tomboy can dodge bullets...while eating breakfast. All that training around Jupiter's orbit must've really helped, because whenever she pilots her Ridiculously Human Robot Valsione, it can perform the machine skill "bunshin" (Mirror Image), which allows the machine to successfully dodge 50% of all enemy attacks. But here's the real kicker: the technology to perform Mirror Image isn't actually built into the Valsione, because Lune has just got that CRAZY REFLEXES to activate Mirror Image ON HER OWN. Talk about Charles Atlas Superpower...
A strange example is found in Touhou. Marisa Kirisame is the series' "ordinary magician" (and damn proud of it), a muggle who gained expressly magical powers through sheer training alone. While her co-main character is a miko who never has to train because her natural magical power is just that good, Marisa spends all her time practicing, copying spells from other characters, and looting spellbooks from the local librarian. Even after all that, she can only use her powers in the first place because she carries around a mini-Hakkero, essentially a magical battery (or before that, magic mushrooms). Despite this, Marisa can hold her own against youkai, demons, even deities, while keeping up with the growth of the few other humans in the series, all of whom have magical powers. Marisa's signature attack even seems to show this sort of clumsy mentality - Master Spark can be described as analogous to taking the magical equivalent of C4, placing it in a metal bowl to make an ad-hoc shaped charge, pointing it at the enemy, and detonating it without the bone-snapping recoil that would entail.
Even the weakest people in Team Fortress 2 can survive a direct hit at point blank range from a rocket. The amount of damage they can take ranges from an 88mm round embedded in one's skull, to the Heavy, who is so durable, there's an achievement for taking damage from bullets, fire, melee weapons, and shrapnel, all in one life. Said character also hefts a minigun weighing more than some of his coworkers. Other notables include the Medic, who can heal bullet wounds by waiting long enough, and the Scout, who can propel himself through the air with NO apparent canonical explanation.
The Scout is a specific example of this. His backstory says that he grew up in a family that got into lots of fights. But he could never get there in time to get into the fray. So he trained himself to be so nimble that he could literally beat his brothers to the punch.
Modern Warfare 2 multiplayer allows you to do things like become immune to falling damage via the Commando Pro perk by killing enough people with your knife. Or carry extra ammo by Scavenging ammo from corpses enough times. Etc. etc.
Ayla of Chrono Trigger may not be able to learn magic like most of the other playable characters, but what she can do is beat the shit out of bosses with her bare hands. Her sheer physical damage output outranks Crono's by the endgame, and has been hitting the damage cap with her critical attacks well before that point.
Ys: Adol Christin. He usually acquires at least some magical ability in his powers, but on at least one occasion, without any magic, he only failed to single-handedly kill a monster that normally takes an entire hunting party months to track down and kill due to it being physically impossible with the weapon he's wielding at the time, and does manage to fight it to a standstill and weaken it enough that it's easily dispatched by hunters carrying the proper armaments.
Adol's friend and traveling companion Dogi is perhaps a better example of this for his immense, 100% magic-free strength. Trapped in a dungeon cell? Don't worry, Dogi will punch a hole through the wall for you to escape through. Cave-in leave you stranded? Neverfear, Dogi will clear the rubble with his fist! A wall of solid bedrock separating you two? Dogi PUUUNCH!!! He doesn't call himself "Dogi the Wall Crusher" for nothing.
Non-magical classes in The Elder Scrolls, especially in Oblivion, can achieve superhuman abilities simply by training enough. When their skills are high enough, they can outrun deer and kill them in one punch, jump the length of some buildings, turn invisible simply by crouching, kill bears with their bare hands, and jump off the surface of water, repeatedly.
Also, the Voice in Skyrim. The Dragonborn can use it innately, but anyone can learn it with enough training. The Greybeard monks who devote their lives to such training cannot converse with normals; their Voice is so powerful that even a whisper is lethal.
The player-character in the Record of Lodoss War Dreamcast game learns magic like a child learning algebra, so most of the time you must rely on physical attacks. At level 100 you can punch sandworms and 'lighter' golems to death, despite the fact he's supposedly just an average well-trained knight once you take off his magical armours and weaponry. (And one of those swords, the Hakuring, was the sword of an OGRE. Yes it is expectedly slow as molasses, but if he were so 'normal' it should be CRUSHING him! Cloud's cricket bat pales in comparison and isn't even double-sided like this is. The hilt alone is the size of your shortswords.)
Alpha Protocol. Through experience, Michael can learn to do things such as curve shots from behind cover and nail up to six targets at once while using pistols, turn invisible to electronics if such a device is about to almost detect him as well as invisibility from humans either as an active ability or a "panic button" when almost detected, and shrug off an otherwise fatal attack.
Rogues are similar, having no supernatural abilities. Even their ability to disappear from sight in full view of surrounding enemies is solely due to their training.
Don't forget about Monks, who can do things such as jump their own height to unleash a damaging kick or spin kick, even without weapons. Their magic? Just Chi.
Similarly, the Barbarian from Diablo 2 and 3 is described this way in a number of places. Most fitting is the natural resistance skill, which helps the barbarian resist several types of magic damage, and is said to come simply from surviving tough environments.
In Battlestar Galactica Online, the skills your avatar picks up enable your starships to do longer FTL jumps, fly faster, make your guns more accurate and a variety of other things.
The Prince of Persia games run on this trope. In the first two (platformer) games the Prince can climb up arbitrary number of levels vertically by jumping up, grabbing the ledge above him, then pulling himself up. He can also jump over a large gap, grab a ledge a level down, then pull himself up. The later games are designed with the very same concept.
Starting with the Sands of Time series, the Prince's parkour is this. For example, the Prince can run almost twenty feet along a wall before falling. The 2008 reboot takes this to an even greater extent, allowing the Prince to jump from one wall to another and keep running. There's even a ceiling run move.
In the Fire Emblem series, pretty much everyone has the potential to become this if you're lucky with levels. Depending on their stats, combined with other features like supports, units can do things like mowing down legion after legion single-handedly, have 100% chance to use critical attacks or take things like artillery and devastating magic to the face and not even flinch.
Of special mention is the My Unit/Avatar from New Mystery of the Emblem. He/she was put through rigorous training by their grandfather since they were kids in order to become knights, and it has become but a pastime by the time they're adults. Because of this training, he/she is one of the most strong and broken units in the entire series (the high strength growth can even get in the way if you're playing as a magic unit), and their support conversation with the knight Draug involves lifting three people with a pinky. Here's a video of a male version one-shotting one of the most important bosses in the game (though it involves Warp abuse).
Solaire of Astora from Dark Souls is simultaneously one of the tankiest and toughest things you can ever have on your side, and completely powered by hardcore training. He -intentionally- became Undead just so that he could set out on a quest to find his own inner salvation. Even the lightning spears he throws are a product of his insane willpower and training alone, not any natural gift.
Lara Croft, the Tomb Raider, has the build of a cheerleader but is shown with the abilities of a super-athlete — as well as being near-superhuman in strength and agility, often taking multiple hits from firearms and other weapons which can likewise be cured instantly with a simple first-aid kit; the only thing that can really harm her is fatal falls and death-traps.
Garrett of Thief, thanks to Keeper training, can explicitly hide in plain sight, and effectively become invisible using any shadow.
In Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, you can train at the gym to increase your strength and stamina. While there is a limit to the improvement you can make each day, it still only takes a maximum of about a week to go from a complete wimp to being one of the strongest, fittest people ever.
Myrmidons and Eternal Soldiers in Nexus Clash have no power source but their own badassery, and still manage to match or beat the competition in a universe otherwise filled with angels, demons and magic users.
Rock Adams from the Soul Series. In his ending in III, he returns home to the New World by swimming across the Atlantic.
From El Goonish Shive, the "Anime Style school of martial arts" originally seems to be this. Turns out it is actually a form of magic.
Maytag and Bernadette of Flipside regularly perform combat feats that are physically impossible outside of Wuxia films.
Fighter of 8-Bit Theater has not only survived repeated stabs to the brain with only temporary ill effects (one of them actually made him smarter), but also direct clashes with, among other things, a dark elf prince, a fire demon and an obscenely powerful Lich, successfully duelling the former two. However, while Fighter is called Vargus' best student, he seemed to have spent most of Fighter Camp '86 watching TV.
Whereas Fighter is 'merely' able to wield four swords at once, Thief is able to regularly break enchantments and laws of physics by legal mumbo jumbo and just being that good and, amongst other things, he stole his class change from the future. To quote him, he's "stolen things that weren't even there."
According to Thief his law ninjas are so well trained they are capable of being deployed and following people even though they are dead.
Bun-Bun from Sluggy Freelance can outrun a car, toss a grown man over his shoulder, claw his way out of an alien's stomach, skin a grizzly bear alive, and survive grenade explosions at point-blank range. Made all the more impressive considering that Bun-Bun is a small bunny.
Oasis and Kusari might count as well. It's currently unknown how much of their physical prowess is due to their training and how much is due to being Dr. Steve's lab rats.
It's not yet determined how much of Oasis's ability is due to development or origin, but in her last storyline it was shown that she's at least learning how to become more impossible through training. And old man Feng, for all his history of martial arts training, didn't seem that surprised at what she could do. Maybe he's the Charles Atlas Supercoach?
Frans Rayner was able to completely change his physiology, moving his pressure points to make himself a better ninja, just by training hard enough. But he couldn't make himself grow a mustache, which was ultimately his downfall.
Gordito could grow a mustache by sheer force of will, though. This is made even more fantastic by the fact that he's twelve.
According to the comic, the greatest master of this was Bruce Lee, whose final act of body mastery was jumping to the moon. He teaches the titular character how to jump back. (Which is six times easier.)
There was an old friend of McNinja who did so much body building that his back muscles formed a biological jetpack.
Bandito: Wouldn't he grow wings? Doctor McNinja: No. Animals have wings, man has jetpacks.
Othar Tryggvassen ('Gentleman Adventurer!!) really does run on this trope. We're talking about the man who survived being thrown out of an airship multiple times: here, and then shortly afterward here. His adventurers in his Twitter feed are even more ludicrous.
Also the Unstoppable Higgs seems to have this. Though it seems more and more likely that he actually has some superpowers.
O-Chul of The Order of the Stick, exemplified here. Hands bound, dumped into a pool of acid (while being dumped, knocks a goblin into the pool with his feet), lands on a pit of spikes, uses the spikes to cut through the bonds on his wrists, is attacked by an acid-breathing shark, punches it, breaking multiple teeth, gets to the surface. Finding himself unable to get out of the pool, owing to high walls, taunts the shark to attack him, uses the momentum from the shark jumping and biting him to get out of the pool, falls a fair distance to the floor, still covered in acid. Still conscious, he rushes the Big Bad Epic Level Lich Sorcerer, intending to take him down with his bare hands.
More recently, the absurd amount D&D characters can increase their abilities simply through training and experience are demonstrated in this strip - where two crew members struggled to hold onto a rope with all their strength, Roy is able to absently hold it in one hand without even noticing.
Roy's strength is not an example of this trope. Roy is wearing a magical Girdle of Giant Strength and is not simply strong due to training.
Readers of Homestuck would know that Dave's Bro is a strong and versatile fighter, but would be quite surprised when he cleanly splits a giant meteor in half with his katana.
Hannah Mets from Lightbringer was shown in one of her early appearances to be capable of lifting a table over her head without any sign of strain or effort despite her only mildly muscular frame. Word of God states she has no superpowers.
Grrl Power gives us Math, a martial artist so incredible that even the most powerful super in the world notes that distinguishing between his abilities and actual superpowers is a futile exercise.
A.P.M. from Wootlabs turned her gaming skills into actual enhanced reflexes and mental multitasking abilities.
Sebastian from True Villains had to train like mad to keep a necromantic injury from draining his life force and killing him. When that injury was healed, all the extra energy that had been feeding the injury was added to his physical strength.
Satin Steele has Satin, a professional female bodybuilder who does stuff like climbing up the spine of a giant dinosaur and fending off an alien monster with just her strength, gymnastics training and karate skills.
The Global Guardians PBEM Universe features several: Hazard, Cold Comfort, Hip-Hop, Awesome X, Quarterback, Elite, and Action Man are all notable examples.
Lampshaded in the blog-novel Flyover City!, when the Hero / Load decides to pursue a career in crimefighting after his beloved 1975 Vespa is stolen.
Journeyman of the Whateley Universe is a baseline but incredibly well trained in martial arts to the point that he can take on superpowered characters like Bladedancer, ki mistress Chaka, and Person of Mass Destruction Tennyo. He once sparred with all three at the same time. And won.
Robin from Teen Titans routinely smacked around 20-foot-tall concrete giants with brute strength alone and shrugged off what should be near fatal injuries. After all, he was trained by Batman.
Slade and Red X both also fall into this. While Red X does generally use the environment and his suit's abilities to great effect to take down the Titans, he also essentially shrugs off being slammed into a concrete wall by Starfire's eyebeams and then dropping at least seven feet onto a concrete floor. All three of them are capable of performing jumps that completely defy belief.
Robin in Young Justice isn't that far behind either. In "Downtime", while working out at the gym, he punches a crater in a concrete wall.
Kim Possible is the female epitome of the trope. We're seriously supposed to believe that cheerleading did all that?
In one episode of Samurai Jack, Jack trains wearing heavy boulders; when they are finally removed, he is able to "jump good." So good, in fact, that it's mistaken for flight. The guy who trained him is essentially a normal human being who after running away to live with primates, has trained long enough to leap to the moon and back.
As another example, in episode 5, "Jack in Space", when Jack is about to be launched from the pod to send him at superluminal speeds to go back in time, he sees the Aku-drones forming into a giant gun, disconnects from the pod and ends up fighting the thing in space. He reflects their energy blast with the sword, getting a good backwash of electricity himself. The explosion sends Jack plunging through the atmosphere to hit the ground like a meteorite. So how long does Jack spend recovering from that damage? About half a second. He's wearing Powered Armor, but still.
He is also capable of hiding, literally, in broad daylight, this exclusively due to Rule of Cool.
Hong Kong Phooey subverts this one, with the main character's constant referral to his 'Hong Kong Book of Kong Foo', yet he is incompetent at it.
Valerie of Danny Phantom turned from spoiled rich girl into Action Girl. Despite being only fourteen, she has stated to be a ninth degree martial artist. Her older alternate future self even survived a fall with minor injuries from hundreds of feet high!
Ty Lee's teammate Mai is a slightly milder case; similar to Marvel Comics villain Bullseye (mentioned above), her skill with throwing blades is basically superhuman.
Master Piandao has these in Warrior Poet form, in that he can fight on par with incredibly powerful benders with just a sword and defeat ludicrous numbers of foes and so on, and Training Montages some of 'em into Sokka.
Zuko of course has actual superpowers in the form of martial arts pyrokinesis, but given he's insecure about his bending and all he seems to have paid special attention to developing some of these. He's not much better than Suki, but he's pulling this stuff all the damn time. He's broken shackles with an ax kick, and he's punched a person across a room.
Not to mention having sufficient strength and stamina to have prolonged martial arts fights while wearing plate armour.
Most of Aang's speed and agility are shown to be from the use of his airbending, but he's also displayed feats of this trope that can't be attributed to it. While not as impressive as Zuko, he has done things like briefly Bridle Carry Katara while jumping down a couple stories, and also once carry Zuko, despite both of them clearly being heavier than him and his thing build wouldn't hint he possessed that sort of strength. He's also fallen a few stories out of a tree, and got back up seconds later with no lasting injuries.
Iroh has displayed the strength to toss boulders, while out of shape.
Korra from The Legend of Korra embodies this trope to a degree unusual even within her franchise. In addition to being able to wield the four elements and having a Super Mode that can expertly crack continental plates without mussing anyone's hair, her sheer brute strength allows her to effortlessly pick up and fling around grown men taller than her.
In the Book Three finale, she becomes so enraged that she breaks apart unbendable platinum chains by nothing but raw strength.
Similarly, the athletic-but-not-overly-buff Mako has casually tossed his bulky brother over his shoulder, thrown mooks away with a single hand, and doing neck lifts with no major exertion.
In an episode of Justice League Unlimited, Wildcat becomes so frustrated with his lack of superpowers that he punches through a brick wall.
The Ripping Friends are superhumanly strong and tough. Their leader Crag once dragged the entire landmass of Quebec back to Canada with his bare hands and a rope. They got this way by training their asses off with their brutal mother. To them, having superpowers is cheating.
Finn from Adventure Time is probably the only human in the show, but he has demonstrated high acrobatic ability, more than enough strength to cut monsters in half, and has taken more damage than most adults could withstand, let alone a not-particularly-athletic 13 year old.
The IDW comics take it a step further when Big Macintosh matches Princess Celestia, the Long LivedGod Empress of their entire nation with enough power to raise the sun every morning, at hoof-wrestling. The next panel she appears in, she has a bandage on her leg meaning he was strong enough to hurt her.
Earth ponies like the Apples are at least naturally stronger and more resilient than other ponies. Rainbow Dash however is a pegasus and the resident Lightning Bruiser, flying at speeds that are literally legendary and crashing into buildings and mountains with barely a scratch. When she finally took enough damage to break one of her wings, she was able to fly again (albeit not very well) in two days.
Some unscrupulous martial arts "masters" claim to have achieved supernatural abilities through training. Websites like bullshido.net and badmartialarts.com are dedicated to debunking them. In spite of this, several martial artists and fighters have developed reputations for seemingly superhuman physical abilities.
Bruce Lee was able to perform a number of spectacular physical feats that he put to good use in his acting career. His films made it seem that he could translate his physical abilities into nearly superhuman fighting ability, but his true skills were never thoroughly tested.
Mas Oyama, who was said to kill bulls by punching them in the face, before or after hacking their horns off with his bare hands. He was also said to crush rocks with his hands and fight one hundred people in a row with minimal breaks. The degree of truth to these stories is debatable. Youtube features a video of his bull exploits, though it only shows Oyama wrestling a harnessed bull to the ground and features a clearly faked portrayal of him hacking off a horn.
A popular legend states that former boxing Lightweight champ Roberto Duran once knocked out a horse with one punch.
After Fedor Emelianenko was suplexed directly onto his head in a Mixed Martial Arts match, he got up and went on to win the fight in less than a minute. When asked how he managed to recover so quickly from such a harsh throw, Fedor explained, "It didn't affect me. I train to fall great distances." In reality, with some training, flexibility, and luck, professional MMA fighters can avoid significant damage from attacks that appear to be quite serious.
Many physical stunts appear to display superhuman abilities, but are not quite as impossible as they seem:
Legendary illusionist Harry Houdini could famously absorb extremely heavy blows to his abdomen with little to no effect if he prepared properly. In reality, the abdomen is naturally resilient to damage while the abdominals are being flexed. Ironically, a sucker punch might have caused or hastened Houdini's death from peritonitis, though it also might have simply delayed him seeking treatment.
Some martial arts and Le Parkour stunts that seem impossible, such as punching through bricks and falling from great heights, really just take some training and some fearlessness. Others take advantage of artful performance and stagecraft to appear more difficult or impressive.
In The Lord of the Rings, many of the CGI-assisted acrobatic stunts of Legolas were criticized as unrealistic, but some of his feats, such as mounting a horse at a gallop, are preexisting stunts that could be performed live by the right kinds of gymnasts, circus performers, or classic vaudeville stuntmen.
This is reversed for alligators and crocodiles: one can neutralize them by holding their jaw shut. Their biting muscles are extremely powerful, but their jaw-opening muscles are extremely weak, so that an average strength person can keep them shut with just their hands (though again, Don't Try This at Home with your gator).
The fact that it is possible to hold a gator's or a croc's mouth shut with one hand has been around for a long time, but it has only been accomplished under controlled conditions where the animals were thoroughly restrained and could not do anything but open or close their mouths. Under real conditions, the animal is not going to obligingly hold still. Anyone attempting it will have to deal with the creature's considerable size and strength, sharp claws, powerful tail, and predatory instincts. This never gets mentioned.
History is filled with people who thought they could perform supernatural feats with enough training and other preparations, but were proven quite mistaken:
In the Maji Maji rebellion in German East Africa during the colonial days, tribes thought something similar. Through training and washing in magical water blessed by local shamans, they thought they would become immune to machine gun fire.
The Society of Right and Harmonious Fists (more commonly known as the Boxers of the famous Boxer Rebellion) believed that through training, diet, martial arts, and prayer, they could perform extraordinary feats and become immune to swords and bullets.
Contrary to the Instant Death Bullet trope, sometimes people don't even realize they've been shot or otherwise don't realize how badly they're injured until the adrenaline wears off, resulting in people running around or moving with potentially fatal gunshot wounds, or not realizing what being shot feels like. Additionally, combat reflexes can be dependent on your culture to some extent; a culture which hasn't been exposed to firearms very much doesn't know that hitting the dirt in response to gunfire reduces your likelihood of getting hit, and thus may be more likely to remain standing while being shot at. This may look like incredible, inhuman bravery to people who are more familiar with firearms.
Similarly, a drowning person in a state of panic may exhibit much greater strength than normal for that individual, due to the rush of adrenaline. This is why lifeguards and others responsible for water safety are strictly cautioned to swim out to still-conscious drowning people only as an absolute last resort, when other methods of rescue such as poles, ring buoys and boats aren't available or feasible, due to the risk of becoming victims themselves.
It has been found that one can increase bone strength through their density but this requires heavy physical training and does not aid much more then allowing for fewer broken bones later on. The easy way is to train in martial arts or other physical combats that create micro-fractures in the pores of the bone and allow them to heal and fill.
It is possible for anyone to do a less extreme version of this using biofeedback.
The human body is always in a mild state of alertness while awake (it can remain in this state while asleep due to certain disorders), causing vitals to be consistently elevated above absolute baseline. By deliberately clearing the mind and shutting off outside stimulus, meditation can allow a person's physiological systems to settle down to a level comparable to deep sleep while arguably still conscious. This also explains the regenerative effects meditation seems to have as sleep also triggers healing and growth mechanisms.
Tori Allen, a champion rock wall climber, got that way by climbing trees constantly from the age of four. By chasing after her pet monkey when her own limbs were maturing, she acquired phenomenal grip strength and a disproportionately-powerful bone structure. Now, she could give Spider-Man a vertical run for his money.
Some blind people are able to learn to navigate through echolocation, just like bats do. All humans have the ability to a certain extent, but with training, it can be greatly improved.
Although films like James Bond and The Bourne Series get panned for showing the titular protagonists doing unbelievable stunts, in reality most of the actions shown are actually possible. Various studies and TV specials, including two from Discovery and the Science Channel, show that there are people who can pull off those insane driving scenes, marksman who can hit a dozen targets at various ranges with a pistol, and fighters that can take on five men at once and curb stomp them. The biggest problem in the portrayal is that nobody can do all of this; it requires an enormous amount of training not just to learn these skills but to maintain them as well.
There are plenty of stories of people who survived things that should kill them. For example, this 7-year-old girl who took six bullets and not only survived, but is able to walk and talk like normal even after doctors predicted she'd be paralyzed and mute for life.
Many elite-level athletes have physiological "quirks" that allow them to excel at their particular sport, such as swimmer Michael Phelpsnote his arms are longer than average for his height; a 6'7" wingspan for a 6'4" man and ultra-marathon runner Dean Karnazesnote his body's production of lactic acid actually decreases the longer he exercises. They still need to train extensively to compete at the highest levels.
Some attribute their extraordinary speed and endurance of Kenyan marathoners to simply training religiously in the high altitude of Western Kenya.
Paramedics and Emergency Physicians are capable of saving people whose hearts aren't beating or who have taken bullets to the brain only through insane amounts of training and experience. However, the strain of this can lead to depression and anxiety especially without treatment.
Throwing a needle through glass is impossible, you say? Just watch.