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?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 and Fat Flex.
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- 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.
- This T Mobile ad, found at Walmart.
Film - Animated
- Hercules - Shortly after she meets Hercules, Meg flexes her twig arms and nothing bulges. They remain little twigs.
- Herc himself back when he was a scrawny teenager. During the early parts of the "One Last Hope" training montage, Phil has him flex while he measures Hercs bicep with a tape measure, and poor awkward Herc can barely muster a tiny bump despite his Super Strength. Cut to some 5 years or so later of Training from Hell, and Herc repeats the scene, except now he's a hulking adonis who snaps the tape measure when he flexes.
Film - Live Action
- Charlie from Mystery Team
- Joe Dirt - Where both Jaime Pressly and Brittany Daniel are more toned than David Spade, but that doesn't stop his titular character from saying stuff like "Watch the guns, baby" or "Say it in the microphone."
- Maruti from The Return of Hanuman does this when he is signing up to a school.
- Napoleon Dynamite: While talking with Kip at a diner, Uncle Rico can be seen crossing his arms but using his fists to push up his biceps.
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".
- Sponge does this in Salute Your Shorts when he and Donkey Lips are being weighed-in when they're signing up for the wrestling team. For added humor, Z.Z. attempts to squeeze it, and Sponge exclaims, "Ow! I got a bruise!"
- The ever-self-deluding Jon in Garfield has done this a few times.
Jon (to mirror): Arbuckle, you are a Greek god.Garfield: More like geeky god.
- Garfield himself has an aversion, he gives a ridiculously impressive flex. "Did you know you can flex fat?"
- In Agnes, Agnes ignores Trout's legitimate description of her arms as "like angel hair pasta."
- In Get Fuzzy, Bucky boasts an arm hard as a rock. Satchel feels it and says it's all bone.
- in FoxTrot, the weedy Jason draws battleships on his biceps, so they can bob up and down when he flexes. When Paige points out they aren't moving, he wonders if he should have started with a lighter ship.
- 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 (he didnt actually flex at all, but instead relaxed his arm to make himself seem unfit). The funny part being that Regal was only non-muscular as compared to the other wrestlers (who commonly stuffed themselves with steroids), and that he was legitimately tougher than almost all of them.
- British wrestler Muscles Mansfield would often do this. His in ring pose had him flex his rather scrawny arms.
- 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
- The results whenever Chris-Chan tries to prove his POWER.
- Bugs Bunny would get the "hammock" effect described above almost every time. When he didn't he got a comically-small bulge. The page image is from "Bunny Hugged".
- 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.
- The rail-thin 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:
- While being interrogated by Pinkie Pie in "Party of One" (it happens), Spike confesses to flexing in front of a mirror and saying "Lookin' good, Spike. Lookin' real good."
- Spike does this again 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.
- In Miraculous Ladybug, Chat Noir tries to show off his non-existent biceps in different occasions to different girls. None of them are impressed. Somewhat downplayed because Chat is actually in pretty good shape (being a superhero and a professional model), he just has a slim and wiry body type so his biceps don't bulge at all.
- An episode of The Simpsons has the family visiting a boardwalk circus selling off its assets. Homer contemplates buying a weight from a strongman, noting that he could use a bit of toning. He flexes an arm, with no result, then pokes the arm, causing his whole body to jiggle. Homer ends up buying the weight, but only works out one arm, leaving him with one massive arm and one arm just as out of shape.
- In the Star vs. the Forces of Evil episode "Sleepover", Marco attempts to impress his crush Jackie by flexing his right arm. Despite being fit (he practices martial arts), his bicep doesn't bulge.