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Fat Flex

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What goes up, must come down.

A fairly common trope in animated works, this happens when a plump character tries to make themself look strong and athletic. They'll often do this by grabbing their fat waists and pushing them up, for the illusion of a narrow waist and barrel chest. The fat then drops back down into place for comedic effect — often accompanied by the sound of a deep timpani hit. If they are stout and strong, Acrofatic, Fat and Proud, a Big Beautiful Man, a Big Beautiful Woman, or any combination of the above, they might just flex with both their fat and muscles on display.

There's a tiny bit of Truth in Television to this, as posing technique can significantly transform how someone looks depending on the circumstance. In the sport of Bodybuilding, where having a V-shaped upper body is rewarded, contestants who tend to have a blocky waist — or worse, are suffering from a distended midsection — can make themselves look more streamlined by sucking their gut in, which at the same time inflates the thorax and improves their taper. It’s difficult to keep it sucked in through an entire show, however, especially since bodybuilders compete while depleted of water and calories, and posing is more strenuous than it looks. Therefore, even if someone's midsection looks pretty respectable while they're locked into the pose, the moments when they relax or try to catch their breath can be very unflattering if they've got a bad case of bloating. Also note that this kind of abdominal control is only effective at hiding gut distension and visceral fat, i.e. problems contained within the abdominal wall; since subcutaneous fat is located outside the muscles that do the cinching in, belly fat and especially love handles can't be sucked in anywhere near as much.

Compare Of Corsets Funny. See also Fake Muscles. Sister Trope to Flexing Those Non-Biceps, where the character doesn't even have fat to flex.


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  • This trope can be inverted in dishonest diet and fitness ads, which exaggerate how quickly someone can transform their physique using their product by showing a supposed before/after picture comparison in which both photos of the person were actually taken at the same time. This is a lot easier to do than taking a real overweight or non-muscular person and getting them to look that good in the amount of time advertised.
    • To create the illusion of being out-of-shape, a fit person can fully relax their abdomen to simulate a pot belly, let the tension out of all of their muscles so their whole body looks softer and less defined, and use angles/lighting/poses for the photographs that are unflattering for their physique.
    • For the "after" picture they can do several things to create the illusion of a mind-blowing difference. Firstly they will tighten their abdominal muscles to shrink their waist and make their muscle definition visible. They will also make sure to tense their muscles all over the body for the appearance of more separation and leanness. For the appearance of more fullness in the muscles, and perhaps more prominent veins, they can do some exercises before the photo to get a pump going. Furthermore, they’ll use better poses, lighting, and angles for the photos, maybe even spraying a bit of water on their skin with a spray bottle to make their muscles catch the light nicely. Finally they can increase the contrast in post production to exaggerate the cuts and vascularity, or at the most dishonest they can manipulate the image to make the size of the muscles or the shoulder-waist-hip ratio more impressive.
    • Altogether this makes it look like they went from dumpy to ripped in a very short time, when in reality they were ripped to begin with. Especially if their physique is the result of training and dieting for several years, the misleading comparison will give you an unrealistic idea of the results you would be able to get from the program.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Dragon Ball Super has this happen to Toppo. He normally has a large midsection, but still manages to be one of the stronger fighters. He loses the gut once he becomes a God of Destruction, and gains it back after being defeated.
  • My Hero Academia: All Might describes his superpower to be similar to this. Just like a normal human can puff their chest to look stronger, he too can redistribute his body's energy output to turn from a skinny bloke to a superhuman form. However, doing so puts heavy strain on his body, even more so after he got a lung ripped out in battle and so has had his transformational time halved.
  • Happens on Ultimate Muscle when Kid Muscle finally meets his father King Muscle again at the conclusion of the Hercules Factory arc. King Muscle still looks as buff as he did in his prime (aside from having a bald patch on his head, which is odd because he didn't have hair in the first place), which is lampshaded by the other older wrestlers who complain about how easily out of shape they get these days. Then it turns out that King Muscle had just rearranged all his fat to look like muscles, which is why he wasn't moving from his badass pose, and once everything slips back into place, it turns out he's gotten a huge gut and scrawny arms in the past few decades.

    Comic Strips 
  • Garfield: Repeatedly.
    • February 17, 1986: Garfield does it to try and impress Arlene. As soon as she says "You may dispense with the vanity", he drops it.
    • August 7, 1988: When Jon is Flexing Those Non-Biceps, Garfield gives himself a Heroic Build before commenting "Did you know you can flex fat?".
    • The August 11, 1988 strip has Garfield actually flex his tail. Jon, who was trying to flex his arms, is not amused.
    • February 22, 1993: Garfield flexes his fat, again for Arlene.
    • One of the stories in the spin-off book, Stupid Cupid, has Garfield attempt to do this, again, for Arlene to show up her new, muscular male friend Rex, obviously to no avail.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Bugs Bunny puffs himself up in Space Jam while introducing himself to Canon Foreigner Lola Bunny. He can't sustain this pose, and soon returns to his potato-sack body shape. Lola politely giggles at this faux machismo.
  • Scooby-Doo: In the middle of Scrappy Doo's transformation near the end, he flexes and poses before suddenly gaining a muscle gut.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In an episode of M*A*S*H, Col. Blake ends up falling for a young girl named Nancy, and every time she's within proximity, he would suck in his gut. When she leaves by the end of the episode, he says that he's actually glad she's gone, causing Hawkeye to joke "If you sucked your gut in one more time, your bellybutton would've fallen out your backside."
  • During the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode, Bloodlust, Mike and the Bots mock Robert Reed's character for clearly doing this throughout the movie in order to appear to have a more Heroic Build, making straining and grunting noises when he's on screen.
  • In the beach episode of The Man Show, Jimmy Kimmel shows his son how to properly suck in his stomach when a girl walks past (note this was back when Jimmy was much heavier).


    Print Media 
  • One cartoon panel from Playboy has a man at the beach notice two shapely bikini bunnies approaching, and promptly moves his rounded gut into his torso. The good news: he succeeds in attaining the classic superhero shape. The bad news: without that large gut securing the waistband, his swim trunks end up around his ankles.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • This is a common way for fat heel wrestlers to get heat, which is to say a negative reaction, from the fans for the sheer absurdity and arrogance of the flex. John Tenta was especially noted for doing this.

    Standup Comedy 
  • Comedian, Jared Logan has a bit in his standup, noting how he will periodically do this in the mirror, but with all of the weight he's put on, he still looks fat, even after sucking it in.

    Video Games 
  • In Cuphead, Grim Matchstick's tell for spitting a fireball is sucking in and lifting his gut. He drops it to spit the flame, and it plops back into place.
  • Dinosaurs For Hire have you playing as three dinosaurs, a T-Rex, a Triceratops, and a Stegasaurus, the latter being the chubbiest of the trio. After completing a stage, the Stegosaurus will perform a victory pose by sucking in his belly to turn his torso into abs, before he suddenly gives way and turning it back to a tubby stomach.
  • In Epic Mickey, when Oswald gets mad at Mickey after learning that he's the one responsible for creating the Shadow Blot, he lifts up his waist, puffing up his chest, and challenges him to a fight. However, his waist fat goes back down when he realizes that he's accidentally broken the giant cork sealing the Blot's bottle.
  • Living Books: In Arthur's Birthday, there is a rotund man at the party store. Clicking on him causes him to turn into a superhero, complete with the Heroic Build. But then his fat quickly plops down, prompting an embarrassed look on his face.
  • The Ursa Circus in Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance] does this if you pet/feed it enough. It first shows off its muscles, then decides to do a "strongman" pose, making it look comically buff. Then its body fat suddenly sags to the floor, giving it the appearance of a beanbag. The giant bear stands there looking confused for a few seconds.
  • Di-Jun Huang from Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth 2 looks extremely ripped, but after destroying his arguments and making him lose his composure, it's revealed that he's actually fat and has just been sucking it all in this whole time. And then, much later, it's revealed that he's actually an imposter who had the real Huang murdered 10 years ago. The real one's muscles were presumably genuine.
  • A variation in Vectorman; the titular character is an Orbot (a robot made of Floating Limbs), and sometimes when he does his Victory Pose, his chest falls and he pulls it back up.
  • One of Pete's henchmen in Quackshot attacks by constantly running back and forth. Sometimes, they'll stop and pose with a muscular body, before breathing out to their normal physique.
  • Some idle animations of Murray in Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time will have him pose and flex his body while sucking up his fat. A variant ends in his gut flopping back to normal, which knocks his belt off.

    Western Animation 
  • Fred from Betty Boop in "There's Something about a Soldier." In the cartoony military prep, he's laid down on a table while a machine pushes his stomach up so he'll have a more hero-ish physique.
  • In the Being Ian episode "What's Combover You?", Ken Kelly was flexing his muscles in the bathroom, and all of a sudden, it turns into a middle age pot belly, much to his shock!
  • In the CatDog episode "Dog the Mighty," Dog's first appearance as the superhero Dog the Mighty involves him stepping out the front door in a heroic pose with his chest puffed, then immediately exhaling with a relieved expression as his stomach drops onto Cat.
  • In one episode of Marsupilami, Maurice attempts to impress a female gorilla by puffing up his chest and doing a Primal Chest-Pound. When the female looks completely unimpressed, Maurice's fat drops back in disappointment.
  • Scooby-Doo! and the Witch's Ghost: Both Shaggy and Scooby gain a massive amount of weight early in the film. When coming across the Hex Girls, the two try to impress them by pushing up their weight, but it immediately flops down in fear when the Girls reveal their (fake) vampire teeth.
  • In the Ninja Turtles episode "Return of the Justice Force", Old Superhero Stainless Steel Steve/Stephen, former leader of the Justice Force, has gained a bit of weight since his last fight. After meeting the Turtles and his former allies, he puts on his costume and seemingly regains his Heroic Build — at which point his gut regains its normal girth.
    Steve: "I feel decades younger now!" (his beer belly then plops out over his waistband while he gives a disappointed look)
  • Family Guy had a Cut Away Gag gag with a movie called "In-Shape Out Of Shape Guy from The 50's", which is about a tough guy character, played by Robert Mitchum, who just holds in his gut while he tries to intimidate troublemakers, but as soon as he exhales, his gut pours over his waistband.
  • Zapp Brannigan of Futurama wears a girdle, but it still isn't enough to hide his prominent beer belly. In the episode "In-A-Gadda-Da-Leela," Zapp salutes to Nixon and sucks in his gut, but when given the "at ease" command, he exhales and his gut, now twice as big, flops over his belt.
  • Gargoyles had Broadway lift up his belly to show off in the very first episode, which flops back down predictably a second later.
  • In the Gravity Falls episode "Dipper vs. Manliness," two separate clips from a montage form a fat flex: a clip of Mabel showing Stan how to suck in his gut for the ladies is immediately followed by a clip of Dipper and the Manotaurs relaxing and letting their bellies drop.
  • A commercial bumper for Cartoon Network features Johnny Bravo shirtless and doing a photography shoot. Once the cameras are off, he exhales, revealing a huge gut.
  • The Simpsons
    • In the episode "Sunday Cruddy Sunday", most of the guys are going off to watch the Super Bowl. When they notice there isn't a single girl in sight, Homer exclaims that he can finally stop holding it in, and exhales revealing that his big gut is actually even bigger, and all the other guys follow suit, only to have to suck it back in once they discover that their bus driver is a gorgeous woman.
    • In the episode "Krusty Gets Kancelled", after exercising to lose all the extra weight he put on, Krusty flexes in front of the mirror, showing off a impressive physique. He then stops flexing and his body returns to its normal, flabby state.
  • The climax of a Megas XLR episode involves a detonator being teleported inside Coop's car. The detonator initially lands safely on Coop's big gut, but the moment he exhales in relief, a roll of fat presses the button.
  • In episode 9 of Ballmastrz: 9009, Gaz used a forbidden spell to help her lose weight before the next game, but the spell wore off, making Gaz's stomach flabby again.

  • This emoticon shows an seemingly fit man who does a body-building pose. His body suddenly shakes & gives away, showing that he's actually quite chubby, with a large gut that jiggles. He then sucks it all back in, restarting the process.
  • A bald man attempts to impress a woman walking by on the beach. His belly ends up knocking the table over, which pushes his friend backwards.
  • An old superhero with a large torso sucks in his belly to appear buff & fit, but then breathes out, returning to his normal physique.