Muscle Angst

I think huge muscles
Are fine on men, but on me
They're kinda freaky
— Titanium Maiden from The Heroes Of Crash expressing the feminine version of this trope in haiku form.

A lot of body-image issues are related to/centered around femininity. Thus, we have tropes such as A-Cup Angst, Hollywood Homely/Pudgy/Thin, Fat Girl, and so on. But the same way that thinness and breasts are associated with femininity, muscles are associated with masculinity. Thus, this trope, in which a character angsts about having not enough or too much muscle. There are two versions:


Examples:

Advertising
  • The ad for Charles Atlas where a bully (inadvertently) kicks sand in the face of Mac and his gal. Allegedly this actually happened to the real Charles Atlas before he started doing dynamic tension. A side note: according to several sources, Atlas built his physique with conventional weightlifting, and then devised dynamic tension because he figured it would be easier to sell to young boys with plenty of Muscle Angst but without the resources to buy barbell sets or go to a gym regularly. The failure of dynamic tension to actually work wasn't a sales problem in the days before internet forums.
  • Mixed with A-Cup Angst in an ad manga for Chasteberry E breast enlargement pills: the small-breasted person tries out all kinds of hoo-hah gimmicks to make her breasts grow, including drinking milk, using a suction device, and doing dumbbell exercise... The last one of course does nothing to increase her mammary mass but gives her muscled arms, which she regrets.

Anime and Manga
  • Claymore has Undine, who always looks like an amazon warrior ready to rip your arms off if you so much as glance at her wrong. She is actually just as lithe as the rest of the Claymores, but she lost a friend long ago, and channels her Yoki into her muscles to keep up a strong appearance for the other Claymores.
  • The comedic manga Short Cuts has a story in which a typical "kogal" gets trapped in a sumo wrestler costume and is forced into actual sumo competition. Eventually, she manages to get the zipper unstuck, only to find out all that exercise has made her unfashionably muscular. Not to worry though, a passing man still wants her... for the military!
  • Biske of Hunter × Hunter explains that the reason that she stays in her Sleep Mode Size is that her regular form is "too bulky".
  • Casca from Berserk complains that the fancy, frilly gown she dressed up in for a ball looks weird because she's too muscular. Now Casca is toned, but the fact that every male character thought she looked irresistible proves her wrong.
  • Variation in Pokemon Special. Ruby claims that he doesn't train his Pokemon for battles in fear that they will gain ugly muscles. Looks to be a case of Muscles Are Meaningless, as it turns out his Pokemon are in fact very powerful and well-trained.
  • One guy in Franken Fran keeps getting picked on by bullies, so he goes to Fran for help. He ends up bulging with muscle... and still gets beaten up.
  • Gender inverted in Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun. Nozaki's angst is about having too much—as a Shoujo Genre mangaka, that means he can't use his own body as a model as his readers prefer bishonen.

Fan Works

Film

Literature
  • Keladry, the protagonist of Protector of the Small, training to be a knight, is big and tall and develops muscle, as you might expect. There's a scene where someone takes her by the Standard Female Grab Area and she flexes her bicep so that it swells and forces his hand open. Joren of Stone Mountain tries to make her insecure about that, claiming she'd be pretty if she stopped working out, and she flatly ignores him. At times - worrying about love interests - she thinks they probably prefer small girls, but being a knight means a lot more to her than maybe "attracting" a man, and no one but Joren evidences disgust.

Live-Action TV

Newspaper Comics
  • Peter Fox of Foxtrot sometimes stresses about not being able to gain any muscle due to his superhumanly high metabolism. One Sunday strip had him and his friend Steve cramming a huge work out session into one day to prepare for going to the pool the next day. Unfortunately, the next day they're barely able to move due to being so sore.

Video Games

Visual Novels

Webcomics
  • Titanium Maiden from The Heroes Of Crash are very self-conscious about her hulking, amazonian body. It doesn't help that her teammate Cannon refers to her as "Chickzilla". See also the page quote.
  • Jared of Manly Guys Doing Manly Things starts trying to work out after being the one scrawny guy in a temp office full of Testosterone Poisoning. Commander Badass, the head of said office, warns him that chasing a body image as a solution to your life problems is a quick path down the road of disappointment and eating disorders. Jared, being Jared, completely misses the point.
    • They also parody the Charles Atlas ad mentioned above. Jared eventually gives up and sics his Gyarados, Mr. Fish, on the bully.
  • Bomango: Gogo is an Amazonian Beauty (whose a bit Zig Zagged on the beauty part). She develops Muscle Angst in the 9-part short story, "Ego Generosity" because Andy told her she's not attractive as she thinks and she looks unfeminine. He only told her this because she thought it was a good idea to let Andy gawk at her as a birthday gift.
  • The main character in Bruno the Bandit is shown to suffer from this, despite being a muscular adventurer, due to comparing himself to the unrealistic proportions of fashion model adventurers, who's musculature reaches ridiculous levels.

Web Original
  • A Vocaloid fan video by Kagome-P had Gakupo depressed over his lack of muscle mass, and his story of emulating figures such as Alex Armstrong, Mantaro Muscle and an assortment of anonymous, heavily muscled figures in order to woo the girl of his dreams. This backfires at the end of the video, when he discovers that she's now into skinny guys and his struggle to get a toned body was for nothing.
  • This is Team Four Star's interpretation of Tien in Dragon Ball Z Abridged, possibly coupled with Can't Catch Up.
    Chiaotzu: But Tien, the doctor said if your shoulders get any bigger-
    Tien: (darkly) That's why we don't see him anymore.

Western Animation
  • The Simpsons: The episode where Marge goes into bodybuilding had her obsessed with gaining muscle, despite being very muscular even for a man, due to her run-in with a mugger at the beginning of the episode. The muscle gain becomes a way for her to get rid of her feeling of helplessnes, until it becomes a goal in itself.
  • The first ever Cut Away Gag in Family Guy showed a skinny and weak Adolf Hitler in a gym, called Das Gym, struggling with a small set of barbells and glaring angrily at a musclebound Jewish man surrounded by beautiful women.
  • A long running desire of Ren from Ren and Stimpy was to get pectoral implants. In one episode he finally does...using the fat from Stimpy's butt.
  • An episode of Spongebob Square Pants had Spongebob ordering inflatable muscular arms after realizing how skinny he is. Too bad for him that they don't actually increase his strength.
  • A very early episode of South Park features Cartman winning an essay contest and getting to be on TV. It's Played for Laughs when he sees a commercial advertising a weight gain supplement, and worries that he's too thin when the commercial asks the viewer if they're tired of being a 90-pound weakling (with Cartman estimating that he weighs about 90 pounds - in a third-grader's frame). He gets a supply of the supplement, and bulks up to Jabba the Hutt like levels. He thinks he looks awesome, but anyone else who sees him just says "Goddamn, that's a big fat ass!"
  • One episode of Beavis And Butthead has the duo trying to gain a protein shake in hopes that it'll make them more attractive to chicks. After failing to order the actual thing (since they don't have any money) the two go over to Stuart's house and make their own drink using random food from his kitchen. The drink is thoroughly disgusting, but doesn't actually make any difference. The two try exercising for awhile, but quit because it's too hard.
  • Happens to Daffy Duck in the Looney Tunes short Muscle Tussle, when he takes his girlfriend to the beach and she immediately falls for a musclebound hunk.

Real Life
  • Female bodybuilder Aleesha Young was teased for her large biceps as a child and spent years as a teen starving herself to get a more normal physique. Then she outgrew it...