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Does Not Know His Own Strength
aka: Does Not Know Her Own Strength

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"Dammit, that's the third door this week!"

After you gain Super-Strength, one of the first things that happens is that you lack the dexterity and sensitivity to know when or how much of your super strength is being applied. Consequently, when trying to go about your daily grind, you accidentally break almost anything in your hands from pulling or squeezing too hard (that could include important levers or other people's hands). Jars and cups explode from the slightest squeeze, you burst through or tear off doors and windows, your shoulders chip at entrances/egresses and at worst, you cause severe damage to important facilities or even living beings. The toughest objects are brittle in your super-strong hands and you have to be extra delicate with how you hold or lift things. This is one of the most Omnipresent gags in the medium of superpowers as one of the missing Required Secondary Powers that has to be re-learned and remembered for daily functioning.

Normally, it only happens to folks who gain Super-Strength, not characters born with it and who had it all their life. After all, in real life an Olympic athlete that can lift several times his own weight can also pick up a caterpillar without squishing it and it would create all sorts of Fridge Logic to see characters with long-established super strength constantly smashing plates or bottles and not wonder how they ever managed to feed themselves without learning how to control their power. The one major exception to this is if they're from a place (whether it's another planet, an alternate reality, or a Hidden Elf Village) where everyone is that strong, so things like doorknobs and coffee cups are built to withstand being used by individuals capable of crumpling steel with their bare hands and they're not used to how comparatively flimsy everything is on Earth.

This trope is related to Blessed with Suck but is specific to strength and to powers which resemble strength (e.g. the ability to crush objects via telekinesis). It works as a trade-off where the massive raw power that's great for a battle makes Mundane tasks hell to perform. Another variation involves Functional Magic or Psychic Powers, where a mage or telekinetic with the power to decimate armies must do chores by hand, because the spellcaster lacks enough fine control over those powers. After all, incinerating enemies with "too much fire" isn't really a problem, but burning dinner with "too much fire" is.

If the hero's family is unaware of the hero's new powers, undoubtedly the blame for the damage will fall on 'shoddy construction' or on another house member's bad attempts at DIY.

A frequent and more realistic variation of this is that the hero is able to control their strength, but when tempers flare or the hero is startled (or otherwise incapacitated, or perhaps inebriated) that control quickly lapses.

A Sub-Trope of How Do I Shot Web?.

Compare And Call Him "George", when it happens to (formerly) living things, and Afraid of Their Own Strength. Related to Power Incontinence. Could be called the inverse of Gentle Giant. Bears some relation with Casually Powerful Giant. Can overlap with Unskilled, but Strong. This also plays a part in Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex situations.

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Other examples:

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  • A McDonald's commercial for Hercules had a boy ripping the door off his car with the explanation that hanging with Herc rubs off.
  • A 2020 commercial for Energizer batteries has the Energizer Bunny bust a hole through his drum due to the power of the new batteries being advertised making his banging arms stronger. The commercial ends with him tossing it into a pile with a bunch of similarly trashed drums and soon destroying another one the exact same way.
  • An Australian commercial had a farmer using his Toyota Hilux for various tasks—nudging a fence post straight (the entire fenceline gets knocked over), towing a tractor (the entire axles is torn off) removing a tree stump (which goes flying into an outhouse), and pulling a cow out of the mud (cue Gory Discretion Shot).

    Asian Animation 
  • Happy Heroes: Happy S. doesn't realize just how strong he is sometimes. One episode in particular focused on this - he had to be able to hold some tofu without it crumbling in order for him to be allowed to get a dinosaur egg. He decided to start easy, but found that he couldn't even hold a boulder without it cracking...
  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Jonie, being the strongest goat in the group of main characters besides Sparky but also much clumsier compared to him, tends to be very rough to people and objects - so much so that in episode 23 of Joys of Seasons she has to wear gentle cuffs invented by Mr. Slowy to be able to help hurt animals without her accidentally hurting them even more.

    Comic Strips 

    Films — Animation 
  • Disney's Hercules: Hercules is unaware of his heritage as a demi-god with Super-Strength until he's a teenager; his lack of knowledge and control of his strength made him The Klutz and shunned by the local villagers. Until he learns the truth, goes off to search for Philoctetes and starts taking levels in badass through his Training from Hell...
  • The Incredibles. Mr. Incredible got very stressed out the day he was fired and broke a number of things. He dented a doorknob, shattered the car's window, and cut straight through the plate and part of the table when cutting his son's steak. The best was when he completely lost his temper and threw his boss through seven walls. He's usually in control though, capable of doing little fiddly things with his hands even as he holds up something gigantic.
  • The young Tigress was shown to be like this in Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Furious Five, till she learned self-control.
  • In Monsters vs. Aliens, Ginormica initially has this problem after discovering she has super strength (more than her massive form should have, at any rate). She ends up nearly crushing Derek in her excitement to see him again. Other than that, though, she manages to keep a handle on it.
  • This is a recurring problem for the titular protagonist of Wreck-It Ralph. He has a tendency of breaking things even when he doesn't intend to, going so far as to accidentally wreck up the Nicelanders' apartment complex during their game's anniversary party and kill Fix-It Felix Jr (it was okay though, he respawned).
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Legend of Everfree: The first time Applejack's Super-Strength manifests, she accidentally pulls Rarity to the rock-climbing wall's top with no real effort. Later, she becomes very wary of a repeat incident while working on the dock, wielding her hammer very carefully. She later learns to control it much better, but has a relapse in the Webisode "Overpowered", the result of her power getting boosted. She accidentally tears the door off her locker, then crumples it while trying to shove it back in place.
  • The Powerpuff Girls Movie shows that the girls knew their own strength...they just didn't know how to apply it properly until—after exiling themselves on an asteroid—they sensed the Professor was in danger.
  • Mentioned in Superman Unbound by Lois and Clark about Supergirl in regards to how she takes out the thieves at the start of the movie, even naming the trope. It's justified since Kara mentions that she didn't gradually grow into her powers like Clark did. She just suddenly had them and is still trying to learn how to use them.
  • Causal example in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, when the older Spider-Man tells Miles to wait while he breaks into the Kingpin's lab. Miles hits the boulder he's resting on in annoyance... which causes the rock to split apart, Miles just says "That's new" and is inspired to follow his counterpart/mentor into the lab.
  • In Turning Red, Mei gets angry and lobs a dodgeball at Tyler's head presumably intending to only hit him hard enough to get him to shut up but, since she does so after transforming her arm into that of her much more powerful panda form, she ends up throwing it hard enough for it to give Tyler a Close-Call Haircut and break a window.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Greek Mythology:
    • Herakles/Hercules got very annoyed with his music teacher, Linus, for telling him he was playing music wrong. So Heracles slugged Linus with his lyre, or with a stool... and killed him. Oops. The first evidence of this story is in vase-paintings of the 5th century BC, making this one Older Than Feudalism. In another version, Linus slugged Hercules first. When Hercules was on trial, he was acquitted on the grounds that "everybody has a right to return a slug".
    • Hera would taunt him with visions to make him angry enough to smash his wife/kids/best friends/cities and then feel so guilty about it he'd go on a near-suicidal adventure in order to atone for it. The gods and goddesses of Greek myth wobbled back and forth from being actual physical gods and being embodiments of abstract ideas, depending on who you asked. So there's a thin line between an artificial wrath brought on by Hera's mind control and a natural wrath that gets associated with Hera because Hera, goddess of marriage who is married to the biggest Casanova in the Greek pantheon, is the living embodiment of jealous rage.
  • Ilia Muromets, one of Russian legendary heroes, was super-strong, and sometimes hurt people by things like hugging. It didn't help that he just didn't bother to get up until age 32, so he hadn't practiced social interaction much.
    • Another hero, Svyatogor, was literally so strong the earth refused to hold him and was thus confined to a mountain range which was somewhat less finicky.
      • Some variations of the Muromets story have him receive super strength, and immediately having half of it drained away so that he won't end up like Svyatogor.
    • Vasiliy Buslaev, a hero of the Novgorod epic cycle, is a young ne'er-do-well who doesn't realize his insane strength. This leads to people's arms and legs being casually ripped off.
  • In the Finnish epic The Kalevala, this trope is Kullervo's shtick. For every task he is given to do, he always does it "according to his strength," not according to what the task requires, so he ruins whatever he attempts. Tell him to fell trees, and he magics the whole forest into a wasteland where nothing grows. Tell him to build a fence, and he builds a sky-high and airtight one. Later his father takes him fishing but he completely wastes the boat rowing and kills every fish in the lake trying to set the nets.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Played for laughs in The Muppet Show episode starring Christopher Reeve (way before his accident). The guest star is explaining to Miss Piggy that he wasn't at all chosen for the role of Superman on account of his strength... while accidentally tearing apart a cupboard door. Miss Piggy's reaction: "Yeah, right..."
  • Herry Monster from Sesame Street sometimes accidentally breaks things with his strength. He even had a song about it, titled "I Can't Help It."

  • Joshua Oliphant in Revolting People, who tears the house to bits by accident, and wrestles bears to death while trying to make friends with them. Played for Laughs, obviously.

  • Alfred, the Bison construction worker from Darwin's Soldiers, possesses extreme strength. Most of the time he is in control of it but if he is angry then things tend to get destroyed. For instance, he crushed a piece of concrete that he was planning to use as an Improvised Weapon. A more extreme example was when he started pounding on Aisha's door and leaves the door looking like someone had taken a sledgehammer to it. And he accidentally knocked over a vending machine while trying to free a stuck snack.
  • In Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues, Daigo isn't immediately aware that his superpower grants him enhanced strength. He only finds out when he accidentally crushes a street lamp, and then a man's arm when he prevents him from beating up his girlfriend.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Cyberpunk 2020 has an inset in the section about Cyberware which features Ripperjack having a bad night due to his cyberware punching through cheap concrete and crushing the big pipe he tried to grab to keep from falling into a metal pretzel.
  • In The Dresden Files RPG, near the write-up for the Supernatural Strength power, Harry writes in the margins that it's really easy to accidentally kill someone with a simple punch at this power level.
    • Although ironically this is one of the games where the rules don't really back that statement up. If you take an opponent out of a conflict in the Fate system (which The Dresden Files uses), you decide — within reason — just how exactly that happens, and thus settling for a "mere" knockout blow is just about always an option unless you're dealing with a particularly bloodthirsty GM. (On the third hand, nothing whatsoever prevents a character regardless of their "technical" strength level from being created with a relevant aspect — which could even literally be "Does Not Know His/Her Own Strength", they're freeform that way — and playing the trope dead straight to earn fate points, be that in combat, outside it, or both.)

    Web Original 
  • In a JonTron video Regis Philbin's Epic Workout when he's asked to get a stapler from a drawer he pulls out the whole desk with his arm impressed that his workout routine is working.
  • Common problem in the Whateley Universe: Phase can change her density from intangible to super-dense. When she first manifested, she smashed her bathroom, bent her tub, and then went light and couldn't stop sinking through the floor. One of the things Whateley Academy teaches is control of powers. The bricks routinely have assignments like carrying a raw egg around to learn control.
    • Probably a better example than Phase (who for all her worrying has remarkable fine control over her powers already) would be Compiler, a girl who used her mutant gift for nanotechnology to give herself the superhuman strength and speed her mutation itself failed to provide and that she hasn't quite learned to keep from activating purely by accident yet.
    • Another good example is Diz Aster, who is a Brick along the same lines as Lancer - except that her telekinetic field can't produce anything less than 7 tons of force. This also means that she can't even feel anything, since her shields extend to a few millimetres past her skin; by the time Chaka starts helping out, it's been a year since anyone's been able to touch Diz — or since she's been able to touch anyone else.
    • An equally good example might be Tennyo — whose powers include the ability to throw around beams of energy that flood the area around her with radiation. Since Tennyo herself is immune to the effects of her powers, she's rarely aware of what's happening until it's too late. This got Lampshaded in a chapter of The Great Shoulder Angel Conspiracy, where the instructors for Team Tactics pointed out that Tennyo can't just throw radiation-heavy energy around wildly without noticing if she wants the rescue mission to be a success... so they gave her a belt-attachable radiation detector, so that she can keep an eye on the levels she's putting out.

    Web Videos 
  • The Noob webseries and comic show Gologotha to having friendly gestures towards Gaea that seem to genuinely hurt her, both in-game and in real life. Gaea comments about "almost getting killed by Gologotha's greeting" at some point in the comic.

    Real Life 
  • There's a nervous system disorder that prevents people from telling quite how much pressure they're applying to something — though unless they're ridiculously strong, it's rarely ever a problem. Or unless they're handling something light and delicate, like paper or a neurosurgical operation. Children with this condition can have serious problems when it comes to things like pencils and crayons- they can't accurately gauge how hard they're holding them so they regularly snap them. This can also cause severe difficulty in learning how to write- holding the pencil or pen too hard makes writing neatly difficult and causes significant strain on the writer's hand.
  • Inverted (cruelly) with leprosy. It's not that they injure others, but that they injure themselves since their sense of touch is severely reduced. Couple that with a high rate of infections leading to gangrene and disfigurement. Thankfully there is a cure.
    • Far, far more prevalent is diabetes, where neuropathy (damage to nerves) combined with poor circulation lead to this, eventually resulting in a terrifying amount of preventable amputations. It's also much harder to reverse diabetes than eliminate leprosy. There are other causes of neuropathy as well.
  • Though nowhere near as extreme in fiction, this can happen with some people devoid of any nervous disorders, especially young people who grow faster than normal. For preteens and teens who hit a massive growth-spurt, or hit puberty early, they quickly realize that they have to be much more careful with their strength than other people their age. A big kid can do serious damage to a normal-sized kid if they want to, which means any kind of violence they commit will have greater consequences than if it was anyone else who did it. This is common with young men who are just realizing that they've suddenly gained a bunch of muscle mass.
  • And athletes. It's not uncommon for water polo players to under-estimate their strength and over-estimate the other player's strength, and dunk someone/give them a nosebleed/really hurt someone without realizing it.
  • André the Giant was this way. He was extremely careful in the ring because of it. Unless you pissed him off.
  • An example of how this can be an ACTUAL thing: Jim Cornette once did an interview, where he related the story of a wrestler who once got jumped by a ringside fan. Cornette (never known for his physical prowess) claimed the fan was so small HE could have beaten the guy up; the wrestler the fan jumped was "Hercules Hernandez". Being part of the pre-litigious era, the man was restrained and held backstage, and after returning from the match, Hercules slapped the fan so hard he knocked the guy off his feet, into the wall, and onto the ground unconscious. Cornette's group was the next scheduled match, they walked over the poor fellow, had the match, returned back and he was still out cold. Cornette asked Hercules why, if he was THAT angry, didn't he just punch the guy? The response: "Oh Jimmy, if you punch a guy you might hurt him!"
  • Victoria slapped Beth Phoenix in 2006... breaking Beth's jaw in the process.
  • At Over The Limit 2010, R-Truth slapped Ted DiBiase Jr. so hard that he got a concussion.
  • Basketball player Charles Barkley once hugged a teammate into the emergency room. WHOOPS!
    • Even non-athletes can hug hard enough to seriously restrict breathing, especially if two people hug someone at the same time.
  • Beyonslay may fit this trope. Look at what she did to Rice Rocket!
  • People who hit their growth period before their peers can exhibit this. Sometimes it sticks, particularly for those who end up very large. It can be hard to estimate just how much damage you can do when you don't work out but are still 6+ feet.
  • Scientists are currently working on robots that are made of soft materials, because hard ones are not equipped to handle delicate objects. There are also efforts to measure exactly how much power it takes for a robot arm to injure people, so they can fine tune the limiters. One step in this process involved building a robot arm that hits people and asking them to rate their pain on a scale.
  • Sadly, lots of small children learn this the hard way with their first pet, especially if they mistakenly try to ride a dog or a cat like a horse, which can cause serious back injuries to the pet. And on the flipside, many pets don't always realize that their humans aren't as tough as they are, causing incidents when an overexcited large dog bodyslams someone (often a child) onto concrete, or when an energetic horse gives a playful buck that dislodges his rider.
  • Individuals with frequent seizures can be abnormally strong, which is why you either get a half dozen people to help sedate one who is out of control or you have one try to gentle calm them down. This is not so much "abnormally strong" as that they don't have the natural limiters on using their strength and are instead flailing about uncontrollably. A normal person knows not to hit something that won't move, like a wall, with their full strength. A person having a seizure doesn't have that option.
  • In a similar vein, many martial arts involve training yourself to shut out those limiters on cue, not unlike the effect of an adrenaline rush. A karate novice can't chop a pile of wooden boards with their bare hand because they're subconsciously holding back, which ironically is likely to result in an injured hand if they try, whereas a skilled practitioner can do it with no ill effects.
  • In athletics in general someone may see their physical strength improve with regards to one specific area (like weight training) only to not realize how it translates into another sport. Thus you start playing basketball and suddenly shoot the ball over the backboard. Or a friend starts to playfully wrestle with you and you lift them off the ground.
  • Bionic limbs. It is technologically challenging to generate realistic feedback of how a real arm is supposed to feel, so it is possible for someone with a bionic arm to apply too much force because they can't feel the pressure themselves.
  • CPR. It's quite common for people to use too much strength (usually due to panic) and crack the recipient's sternum. And can unfortunately result in death in young children or infants.

Alternative Title(s): Ace Lightning Syndrome, Does Not Know Her Own Strength, Doesnt Know Her Own Strength



Oliver accidentally pulls S.C. Ruffey apart.

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