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Fake Muscles

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"With Anchor Arms! They slip on like a glove. Just add air. How big do you want 'em? Normal? Veiny? And for the ladies... hairy. I was a wimp before Anchor Arms. Now, I'm a jerk and everybody loves me. So order now, wimp!"
TV Shark, SpongeBob SquarePants

Many people would love to have a muscular physique to show off, whether it be to impress peers, intimidate enemies, or attract amorous attention. However, some of these are too impatient or lazy to put in the necessary training, and want to take a shortcut. Others may not want to grow their muscles permanently, because they only need it as a temporary costume or disguise. In either case the solution is to get fake muscles for show, usually by stuffing a large amount of padding inside one's shirt, wearing a muscle suit, or even painting muscles on. While they might be able to pull off a Pec Flex, they should be careful not to attempt any task that actually requires great strength.

Compare Fake Boobs. See also Muscles Are Meaningless and Fat Flex.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ghi Bree from To Love Ru looks like a muscle-bound monster but he turns out he is not.

    Comic Books 
  • Asterix: While just about every Roman centurion has chest armor that looks like muscles, most of them have a massive, nearly spherical gut that the armor has to curve around.
  • The Mickey Mouse Comic Universe has a couple stories using this:
    • One comic starts with Mickey and Goofy visiting a superhero film set, where Goofy inspects a spare costume and finds it's padded (to the point he can later put it on). Dialogue implies that the main actor is genuinely buff, even if some of his stunt doubles (like, say, the chase scene driver) aren't.
    • On another occasion, Mickey and Goofy were investigating a series of thefts in various cities, and deduced the skinny thief traveled with an itinerant pro-wrestling crew. When they come in to investigate, it turns out some of the wrestlers wear muscle suits to appear more imposing, and Goofy is given one (and a mask) when he tries out for a joke. The thief turns out to be one of the wrestlers wearing muscle suits, and Mickey had initially dismissed him because he wore a muscle suit the entire time until the thief himself showed off the muscle suits.

    Film - Animation 
  • Mulan: During "A Girl Worth Fighting For", Ling strides out a river proudly displaying enormous new muscles... until the water drains out of his clothes and he's back to his skinny self.
  • Andy's repair job on Woody's arm in Toy Story 2 has the side effect of making it look beefier than before.

    Film - Live Action 
  • Batman (1989) cast average-built Michael Keaton to portray Batman, who's supposed to be in peak human shape including muscles on his muscles. To compensate for his build, the Batman costume designed for the film was made of heavily padded foam rubber which gave him the appearance of a muscular physique. This trend would continue with subsequent films, and it wasn't until Christian Bale bulked up for The Dark Knight Trilogy that Hollywood began casting actual muscular actors to portray Batman, though this trend would be broken when Robert Pattinson was cast as Batman in The Batman (2022).
  • Napoleon Dynamite: During one of Kip and Uncle Rico's lunch talks, Uncle Rico sits with his arms crossed, but is noticeably using his fists to push up his biceps.
  • Meet the Spartans, being a parody of 300, has most of the actors playing the Spartans have obviously painted-on six-packs, Kevin Sorbo being the exception (being Hercules helps).
  • Mad Max: Fury Road: Immortan Joe's clear plastic armor molds his sexaganarian gut into a six-pack. Even if he wasn't an old man, he's also dying of cancer.
  • Thor: Love and Thunder: Zeus wears a golden breastplate with sculpted abdominal muscles over his bulging gut.
  • Zoolander 2: Parodied, Mugato initially looks like he put on 50 pounds of muscle in prison and after escaping his cell takes off his Derek disguise to reveal a bod covered in tattoos and bulging biceps. Immediately after he takes off the muscle suit and is in his speed suit. Made more incredulous is that his Derek face mask was constructed by his feet and looked like it.

  • Discussed in Aztec. Blood Glutton insists on buying slaves himself for the group's trade voyage, because some slave traders stuffed wax under the chest of male and female slaves (resulting in impressive pectorals or the appearance of breasts, although the latter melted and drooped on a hot day).
  • In the Discworld novels, the standard (ish) uniform for sergeants in the Ankh-Morpork City Watch includes a breastplate with impressive pecs and sixpack sculpted into it. Sgt Colon is described as fitting into his breastplate like jelly into a mould.

    Live Action TV 
  • Pictured atop this page is Arrested Development, where George Michael obtains a muscle suit to portray Adam in the Michelangelo Buonarroti painting "The Creation of Adam". He winds up using it to impress his crush, Maeby.
  • In The Boys (2019), Homelander seems to have an Heroic Build, but outside his costume he's fairly thin, making the costume padded both in and out of universe.
  • Mythbusters: host Adam Savage sometimes wears a set of fake foam muscles for laughs.
  • In Modern Family, Mitchell wears a Spiderman costume to work on Halloween, with his suit overtop, leading his boss to comment about his muscles.
  • Facing a possible Alien Invasion, The Goodies decide to scare them off by convincing the aliens that humanity is a race of supermen. Cue the Goodies dressing up in superhero tights and inflating their biceps with bike pumps.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia has something of a running gag that whenever Mac, Dennis, and Charlie are trying to be manly, they'll try painting on a set of abs. Said painted abs tend to be so clumsy that it looks more like a boner.

  • One Old Master Q strip have Master Q walking into a gym, and coming out with an eighteen-pack... before cutting to a shot of Master Q in a locker room removing his shirt and revealing the rubber muscle suit underneath.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Robotman and Monty: Monty once tried wearing the male equivalent of a corset, the "Thorset", which pushed his love handles upward so they looked like lats.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • WWE wrestler "Giant Gonzalez" had a bodysuit with muscles drawn on. It probably looked a lot better/less fake from a distance, but yeah.
  • Mr. Main Event wears a sleeveless shirt the same color as his skin with an ultra muscular design.(well sort of, he has a farmers tan so parts of him are much less pale)
  • Rob Van Dam had fake muscles drawn on his singlet while he was TNA World Heavyweight Champion. Van Dam was an athletic man anyway, so it's not as if he had to convince anyone he was really muscular.
  • Rik Roberts, the biggest thing in Florida Wrestling, has abdominal lines drawn on his gut to make it look like an eight pack, which he just might have underneath his fat.
  • CHIKARA's Hydra alternates between having painted-on abs and veins, or wearing a muscle suit. Once, when he had the painted-on muscles one night, and the muscle suit the next, resulted in him being suspended for "wellness policy" violation.

    Video Games 
  • In Space Quest 6, during a parody of an Insignia Rip-Off Ritual, Roger Wilco is stripped not only of his insignia, but also his uniform and the fake "ripped muscles" suit he's wearing under the uniform (which reveals he's actually much scrawnier underneath).
  • In the trailer for Dead Island 2, the jogger's biceps are revealed to be implants when his infection turns him into a zombie and his decaying flesh and skin can't keep the implant in one of his arms in place. His wig also falls off and the skin on his nose falls off revealing he's had a nose job.
  • Zig-zagged with the Pokémon Grimmsnarl. Despite his bulky exterior, he actually shares the rail-thin body type that his pre-evolutions have, it's just hard to see due to all the hair in the way. Despite this, the hair actually works to his advantage, working as actual muscle fibers.

    Web Animation 
  • In the ''Strong Bad Email" "suntan", Strong Bad draws a fake six-pack on his round little body with a sharpie to show off how his "tan" accentuates his "abs". He pitches the concept as if it were an exercise or workout device, the "Ab-Abber 2000".

    Western Animation 
  • In the Classic Disney Short "The Art of Self Defense", Goofy enters a gym sporting a Top-Heavy Guy figure, until he takes off all the robes and towels he's wearing, revealing himself to be as lanky as ever.
  • In the Tom and Jerry cartoon "Muscle Beach Tom", Tom stuffed helium balloons into his bathing suit to look muscular. Because the balloons made him float, he tied an anchor to his waist. Tom won his girlfriend back from Butch, but Jerry gave him away by untying the anchor, inflating his suit into a balloon and pricking it, sending Tom floating away into the sky.
  • In the The Pink Panther cartoon "Come On In, The Water's Pink!," Pink puts on an inflatable muscle suit to outdo a bodybuilder.
  • Parodied in an episode of The Itchy & Scratchy Show on The Simpsons, where Scratchy bulks himself up at the gym, and shows off against Itchy. Itchy attempts to pop his muscles with a nail like you'd see if the muscles were fake, but doesn't work since these are real. The solution? Itchy stings him with the nail several dozen times, causing Scratchy to become woozy from blood loss.
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show: In "Ren's Pecs" in a parody of the old Charles Atlas "The Insult that Made a Man out of Mac" ads, Ren is humiliated at a beach, and is convinced by Atlas stand-in Charles Globe not to exercise and get stronger, but to get a body fat transplant that looks like muscles.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: SpongeBob obtains a pair of inflatable "Anchor Arms" to impress Sandy, though said arms prevent him from doing something simple as lifting a cup. By the end of the episode, his charade fails after failing to lift a heavy weight. SpongeBob himself seemed to believe they were also supposed to make him stronger, as he kept blowing into them to give him the strength to lift said weights.
  • X-Men: Evolution had an episode where Kurt tries to tweak his holoprojector to make himself appear muscular. It works for a while... then it malfunctions (making him comically fat).
    Spyke: You should lay off those cheeseburgers.
  • In the Samurai Jack episode "Samurai versus Samurai", Jack inflicts Clothing Damage on a Miles Gloriosus calling himself the Sam-Moo-Rhai, revealing that he was wearing padding and a corset to look fitter than he really is.
  • The Tiny Toon Adventures episode "The Buster Bunny Bunch" has a short called "Buffed Bunny" in which Buster, trying to impress Babs (who he thought was looking at a picture of a gymnasium, though it turned out she was looking at a carrot cake billboard), uses this at one point while trying to bulk up. One segment ended up as a bumper for reruns on The Hub.
  • In "Super Sunil" from Littlest Pet Shop (2012), Sunil imagines himself as a superhero after donning a suit Blythe made for him. One Imagine Spot has him cornering a robber while showing off his muscles in a threatening manner. The thief drops the loots and runs away, and it is revealed Sunil was simply standing behind a fake, more muscular version of his suit.
  • Similar to the Tom and Jerry example, Dick Van Dyke stuffs his leotard with balloons for his strongman act at the deserted carnival in his episode of The New Scooby-Doo Movies. The balloons don't make him float away, but they all burst at an inopportune moment.
  • In "The Zero Hero" from The Little Rascals, this is Captain Muscles' undoing when he and Darla encounter the bank robbers, one of whom deflates his costume.
    Spanky: Captain Muscles is just a skinny old guy in a blown-up costume!
    Porky: Poor Darla!
  • Celebrity Deathmatch had an episode where Fabio, Bono and Yoko Ono participated in a threeway battle. After Fabio killed Bono, Yoko ended up revealing that not only was Fabio nearly bald and wore a hairpiece, his impressive model physique was just a bodysuit, underneath he's scrawny with a paunch. However, Fabio still ended up winning when he crushed Yoko in an extendable sofa bed while she was too busy laughing at him.
  • Wabbit: A Looney Tunes Production featured this in "Bugs of Steel," where Rock Hardcase's big buff body turned out to be an inflatable body suit that gets punctured and deflated by Squeaks the Squirrel, revealing Rock is a puny weakling.
  • Looney Tunes: The short "Porky And Daffy" has an inversion and the trope played straight. First, the champ (a boxing rooster in a challenge bout) is shown weak and scraggly until his manager opens his robe showing him to be a muscle-bound monster. Then Daffy (the challenger) is in a robe and shown to be just as muscle-bound until the Champ roars like a lion at him and causes the robe to rip off, showing Daffy's "muscles" were really two sacks of flour.
  • In the 2018 reboot of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Hordak's cybernetic armor creates the illusion that he is muscular, but underneath the armor, he's thin and sickly.

    Real Life 
  • Make-up artists can make actors appear more muscular or lean by creating the illusion of more muscle definition. For example, the actors in 300 got highlights painted on to make their six-packs look more separated.
  • Even though actors work out to build up their bodies for superhero movies, their costumes will still contain muscle padding. This is because thicker costumes (such as Chris Evans' Cap suits or Chris Hemsworth's Thor suits) will completely cover up bodies while thinner costumes (such as Tobey Maguire's Spidey suits or Brandon Routh's Superman suits) will squeeze and obscure muscle definition without padding.
  • There are various oils, fats, or gels that bodybuilders can inject into their muscles in order to make them appear bigger than they actually are, known by the catch-all term sight enhancement oils (SEO). The most well-known to the general public (despite the pros having moved on to newer products) is Synthol, which was invented in the mid-nineties by German bodybuilder Chris Clark, and consists of 85% oil, 7.5% lidocaine, and 7.5% alcohol.
    • When used by bodybuilders, an SEO is most likely to be used to bring up the size of the biceps, calves, or deltoids, especially if these are naturally lagging body parts for the individual. Given how expensive the legit products are and the mechanism by which the oil inflates the muscle, it doesn't really work unless you have significant muscle there to begin with. An SEO can also be used to correct asymmetries, for example if the left bicep is smaller than the right bicep without sight enhancement. The drawback is that using too much of it can erase the visible muscle separations and texture which are judged in competitive bodybuilding, and a shot gone wrong can cause an infection in and around the injected muscle with a giveaway misshapen or swollen appearance.
    • SEO can be harmful to the body if misused, particularly because some people who don’t compete and just want to get as cartoonishly big as possible will inject their muscles with literal liters of cheap, often non-sterile substances such as olive oil or petroleum jelly that were not designed for this use. This can result in infections, scarring, and blockage of blood flow, with amputation or death a real possibility. Brazil is especially known for its number of extreme oil-injecting bodybuilders, who get to grotesque proportions and even put their lives at risk in pursuit of ever bigger size.
  • Fake muscles can also be take the form of implants that are surgically inserted either over or under the muscle.
    • One person who's had this is Rodrigo Alves, a Brazilian-born Trans-Atlantic flight attendant who's known as the "real-life Ken" for his all-encompassing use of plastic surgery to sculpt his appearance. In addition to liposuction and everything he's had done to his face, he received silicone implants for pecs and abs, and had his calves reshaped. That's how he has a perfect, chiseled six pack despite never working out.
  • There are companies that make very realistic muscle suits for costumers and cosplayers.
  • Used in X-Men Origins: Wolverine to create Frank Dukes' muscular build at the beginning of the movie. No point in paying a guy to bulk up for a few minutes of screen time when you're only going to have him in a fat suit later.
  • Most Halloween superhero men's and boys' costumes these days have stylized padded musculature.
  • During U2's PopMart tour, Bono liked to wear a shirt printed like a muscular body with the skin removed.