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Flexing Those Non-Biceps
It's hard to imagine how he's even standing.

Crow: So, so what do you think? Am I buff or what? Am I blue twisted cold rolled steel or what?
Mike: You're sure you've lifted already, you're not planning to lift at some future date or anything, are you?
Mystery Science Theater 3000, "Space Mutiny"

An image of a person flexing the biceps, but with the muscular bulge missing. Sometimes this is a comedy act, in which the flexer seems incredibly proud of their (apparently non-existent) muscles, or else hopeful that the muscles will miraculously appear, only to be dismayed. In cartoons, the upper arm may actually droop when the subject flexes, in a U shape, and swing back and forth like a hammock.

Otherwise, it's still a symbol of strength, achievement, and victory, just without the direct connection to muscular strength.

This trend goes back as far as Rosie the Riveter, if not further, and is often found in advertisements aimed at women and children.

The main rule is that the person has to be flexing, and that the biceps brachii is not developed enough to show a bulge. If there is any bulge, then it doesn't count as an example of this trope.

See also Bicep-Polishing Gesture.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • Political advertisements
  • Walgreens loves this trope, for instance here and here, and some elderly people that are unavailable on your average Google image search, and ultimately (and just barely) averted here Ripped off by other advertisers, as seen here
  • Beavis and Butt-Head, as seen here
  • Juliette Lewis on the cover of Four on the Floor.
  • Sarah Haskins shows off her comedic muscle here in a promotional image that was circulating with her interviews.
  • The classic Charles Atlas cartoon adverts in the back of newspapers and comic books, in which a nerd with prominently absent musculature has sand kicked in his face then, after doing the Charles Atlas bodybuilding course, proudly flexes impressive biceps. Some adverts used "before" and "after" cartoons of the flexed bicep to illustrate the point. These have been around since at least the 1950's and probably before.
  • The mascot for cleaning product Mr. Muscle used to be an ironically weedy, geeky-looking guy who'd show off his non-existent muscles like this — the slogan being that the product "does the hard work, so you don't have to". They seem to have since decided it was unclear whether the guy represented the product or the user (was he "Mr. Muscle", or not?), and their mascot is now a CGI superhero in a labcoat.

    Comic Books 

    Film - Live Action 

    Film - Animated 
  • Hercules - Shortly after she meets Hercules, Meg flexes her twig arms and nothing bulges. They remain little twigs.

    Live Action TV 
  • In one host segment in Mystery Science Theater 3000 after the movie Space Mutiny, Crow is inspired to start working out by the movie's handsome bodybuilding hero, but has a barely noticeable and kind of pathetic bicep bump by the end of his set. Then comes Servo, who has become incredibly large and muscular after one squat thrust.
  • In the pilot episode of Game of Thrones ten year-old Bran does this when the king asks him to "show us your muscles".

    Newspaper Comics 

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Steven Regal used to do a routine where he'd flex, nothing would happen, and then he'd use his finger to push a "bicep" up. The funny part being that Regal was only non-muscular as compared to the other wrestlers, and that he was legitimately tougher than almost all of them.

    Video Games 
  • In a scene from Team Fortress 2's Meet the Scout, the Scout "flexes" his arms and acts very proud of his muscles even though there's literally no bulge whatsoever. He does this in attempts to attract women in several supplementary comics as well. It... never works, unfortunately for him, even though it sometimes does make him look suddenly a lot more muscular.
    • During that Meet the Scout video, after "flexing" he proceeds to beat the crap out of a guy twice his size. Guess Muscles Are Meaningless.
  • Punch-Out!!'s Glass Joe would do this if he won, but he never wins. Unless you're using the Power Glove.
  • Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy will sometimes pull this one with Daxter when the player acquires a Power Cell. He also tries to impress Keira with it, but of course to little effect.
  • Kingdom of Loathing uses a little icon of a stick figure with a drooping biceps to represent the effects of Wussinessnote  and Extreme Muscle Relaxationnote .

    Web Original 
  • The results whenever Chris-Chan tries to prove his POWER.

    Western Animation 
  • Bugs Bunny would get the "hammock" effect described above almost every time. When he didn't he got a comically-small bulge.
  • Popeye cartoons (before the point Once per Episode where he eats his spinach).
  • SpongeBob SquarePants. In the episode "MuscleBob BuffPants", he shows off his "muscles" (Actually stick-thin bone and skin arms) to Sandy after working out with stuffed toys as weights; she then shames him by flashing her own massive guns. Hilarity Ensues when he buys inflatable arms to look buff.
  • Goofy in the Classic Disney Short Goofy Gymnastics. At one point the only way he can get a bulge on his arm is to transfer it from a Cranial Eruption.
  • Harold from Total Drama Island starts flexing his scrawny arms while talking to his crush LeShawna; fortunately for him, she finds it more amusing than pathetic.
  • Sokka from Avatar: The Last Airbender can't help but flex his "muscles" every time he sees his reflection. Even Suki, who knew him for literally a day notices it, and on their second encounter teasingly asks if he's been working out lately to provoke this reaction. Of course, he falls for it.
  • The Flintstones used the drooping version again - Fred would flex his bicep and declare it to be "like a potato!", then Barney would attempt to do the same and copy the catchphrase, it would droop and Fred would comment "Mashed potato, maybe..."
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Spike does this in "Read It and Weep", and even kisses his non-biceps. Silence ensues, so he leaves in disgust.
    • In "Putting Your Hoof Down", a nerdy pony does this when Rarity flatters him.
  • Pleakley tries to do this in Lilo & Stitch: The Series, however his arms (or tendrils) are literally Rubber Hose Limbs.


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