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Growing Muscles Sequence

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A sub-trope of Transformation Sequence where an increase of muscle mass and definition is prominent. It can be used by a character transforming to his superpowered form, as well as a visual indicator of a Super Mode activating. In either case, those subjected to it are generally expected to possess Super-Strength.

The sequence usually consists of close-up shots of various muscle groups, most commonly the biceps, chest, and back, growing and becoming more defined. As a result, expect Clothing Damage (with the exception of Magic Pants). The transformation doesn't have to be limited to changes in musculature; for example, a villain can have Spikes of Villainy popping up along the spine of his expanding back. Bulking up is also unexpectedly common in modern werewolf transformations, despite the wolf being an animal generally regarded as lean rather than massive.

Depending on the character and the setting, a Growing Muscles Sequence can be voluntary or involuntary, range from painless to painful to Body Horror and its end result can run the gamut from having a Heroic Build to being The Grotesque.

Compare Shapeshifting, One-Winged Angel, and Hulking Out. See also Shapeshifter Baggage, Temporary Bulk Change, and With Great Power Comes Great Hotness.


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  • A Geico ad has two skinny bros talking about insurance while doing curls. With every cut, one of them starts becoming more and more buff until he bulges with muscle.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Bleach, Ggio Vega and Poww do this when they decide to unleash their full power. Later on, Riruka's Fullbring forces a yakuza trapped inside a weaponised plushie to go through one of these.
  • Michiru's "gorilla arms" form in BNA: Brand New Animal temporarily gives one or both of her arms massive veiny muscles.
  • Happens to Akane in Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak High School after trying Teruteru's "Doping Corn Soup" to help her win a sparring match, the sequence in question ending in a Shout-Out to Gon's transformation in Hunter × Hunter.
  • The main character in Dark Warrior gets one as part of his awakening as an Artificial Human.
  • Sandra Guts from Dirty Pair does this to herself with her own formula called 'Hustle'.
  • Used all the time with various kinds of Super Modes in Dragon Ball.
    • First demonstrated by Master Roshi with his MAX Power form before unleashing a mountain-destroying Kamehameha. He does it again before destroying the moon.
      • When he returns to battle in Super he does it repeatedly, though not to the extremes shown originally... Up until he has to use everything he's got in one go during the Tournament of Power.
    • In Dragon Ball, King Piccolo and Piccolo Jr. are capable of doing this at will along with growing to the size of buildings, but the latter in particular stopped doing this in Dragon Ball Z seemingly because the power increase wasn't worth becoming a massive target.
    • Whenever Zarbon assumes his true form, the transformation sequence will noticeably focus on his slim limbs bulking up with muscle like balloons.
    • When Frieza first unleashes his 100% Full Power form to fight Super Saiyan Goku on Namek, his body bulks up from Lean and Mean to beefier than Goku himself (and Goku got a muscle mass increase from his own transformation to boot) and to the point it looks like his skin is barely able to contain his muscles. Curiously, when he does so again when he arrives on Earth in Resurrection F there is no visible muscle increase, implying his training to maximize his power naturally took away the need for it. Nonetheless, as revealed in the Universal Survival Saga, Frieza can still bulk up his muscles if he wants to.
    • A rare female example comes from Dragon Ball Super with Kale, a Shrinking Violet Universe 6 Saiyan who goes from a normal-looking slim young girl to the female version of Broly.
    • A regular feature of most Super Saiyan forms:
      • While the most visible feature of Super Saiyan is the hair becoming blond and flying up, there's also a small increase of muscle mass. A further increase happens when the user goes into Super Saiyan 2, and even more with Super Saiyan 3.
      • Played with with the Super Saiyan Grade 2 and Grade 3 transformations, both variations of basic Super Saiyan. They increases the user's power by an incredible amount, but not only they drain stamina faster, with the bulkier Grade 3, as Future Trunks learns when fighting Perfect Cell (and later with Caulifla against Goku in the Tournament of Power), all the extra muscle mass that the form comes with cripples the user's speed, making it completely useless; all the strength in the world doesn't mean squat if you can't hit your opponent.
      • Inverted with Super Saiyan God, as the user's muscle shrink while the power increases exponentially. Then played straight with Super Saiyan Blue (that is to Super Saiyan God what normal Super Saiyan is to the base form), that brings the muscle size to the same of normal Super Saiyan.
      • Done massively with the Legendary Super Saiyan form (also known as Berserker Super Saiyan) exclusive to Broly and Kale, with the user becoming more massive than Super Saiyan Grade 3... Without losing any speed and draining stamina much less than even Grade 2. Experience with the form however progressively reduces the bulk (while increasing strength and speed and reducing the stamina drain), with mastery of it resulting in a muscle size similar to Super Saiyan 2.
  • Ichiya from Fairy Tail, whenever he uses his Power Perfume. Laxus did it once when he first showed off his Lightning Dragon Slayer magic, though subsequent uses lack this, and Cobra performs a downplayed version in that only his arms and hands get larger and draconic from activating his Poison Dragon Slayer Magic.
  • Fist of the North Star:
    • Whenever Kenshiro is about to use his full strength through the Tenryu Kokyu Ho (Art of the Dragon's Breathing) technique, he rips up his shirt and makes his jacket slide off his shoulders by sheer muscle expansion while his pants remain unharmed, which essentially makes him the Japanese Hulk. In a variation this is implied to be the result of his inexperience with the technique, as Raoh, Toki and Jagi, all trained in Hokuto Shinken like him but older, don't need to bulk up to use their full strength, and Kenshiro later remains in the muscular form the entire time.
    • Later done by Toki through the Sekkatsukō pressure point to match Raoh's sheer brute strength. Amiba, who at the time was pretending to be Toki, tried the same but after briefly bulking up his hands exploded and he deflated like a balloon.
  • Every time Machio from How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift? flexes, his body swells up with so much muscle that he promptly explodes out of his tracksuit and towers over everyone else.
  • Done in Hunter × Hunter when apparently 12-year-old Biscuit Krueger goes from looking a cute schoolgirl to being 10' tall and incredibly ripped.
  • The Eclipse Driver Marty of Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force has this as his viralizing ability. He can grow his muscles to increase his strength and toughness, to the point of becoming immune to physical attacks like bullets, so Arnage switches weapons and pulls out a Wave-Motion Tuning Fork.
  • This is the villain Muscular's Quirk in My Hero Academia. It quickly enters Body Horror territory because his muscles grow so large and powerful that his skin can't contain them.
  • Aisha Clan-Clan in Outlaw Star can transform into a more muscular version of herself under a full moon. (And then further into a non-anthropomorphic panther creature.) It's not really apparent if Aisha's muscling up is supposed to be something that's literally happening or just an indication that she's switched from "silly" to "serious", since she always has Super-Strength.
  • In Pokémon: The Series, Sawk goes through this when he uses Bulk Up, a move that increases his attack and defense.
  • Kotetsu from Tiger & Bunny, though it turns out it's a cosmetic feature of his original super suit.
  • Downplayed in Toriko; when The Hero, Toriko, powers up for his signature move, the Kugi Punch, he pumps his right arm up and down, making its muscles bigger and bigger, while the rest of his body retains the same muscle mass.
  • Younger Toguro from YuYu Hakusho goes through this every time he unleashes a percentage of his full power, assuming ever more ridiculously bulked up forms during the course of the series. A less prominent example from the same series is Byakko, who grows as he absorbs the blows of his opponents, which turns out to be his undoing.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: Notably averted by Bane in his comic book appearances: Venom makes him veiny, but he stays pretty much the same size (although sometimes his muscles do bulge ever-so-slightly when he takes a dose, as seen when he prepares to fight Batman in Knightfall). Most adaptations play the trope straight, though, and he's bulked up considerably in the New 52.
  • One of the effects of the Super Soldier Serum that created Captain America.
  • David Landers of D.P. 7 goes through quite painful transformations when he grows muscles, which he has to sustain by being a Big Eater.
  • Earthworm Jim: In the second issue, whilst boasting that being an Insectikette gives her the strength of 100 men, Princess Whats-Her-Name does this in a three panel sequence; first she strikes a pin-up girl pose, then she flexes her muscles, causing her to bulk up like an Olympic body-builder, then she unflexes them and snaps back to the pin-up girl look.
  • This happens to Caitlin Fairchild in the first issue of Gen¹³. She goes from short and slender and mousy to tall, ripped and stacked once her powers activate.
  • The Incredible Hulk:
  • Some Marshal Law superheroes "pump ions" to bulk up, most notably the Superman-Expy the Public Spirit.
  • In his first appearance, Nightwing villain Blockbuster has one of these, turning him into a giant, deformed monster. Unlike most examples, the effect is permanent.
  • Popeye, every time he eats his spinach. The change is brief and usually located in the (already abnormally muscular) forearms, sometimes with a superimposed image of a battleship, a cannon, a high-powered turbine or similar imagery.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): Thomas Randolph (White Magician) was already in the process of growing far more muscles than his human frame had room for when he decided to feed on the life of the two women in the house with him to become truly monstrous.
  • Patriot of Young Avengers, in the storyline where it's revealed he takes Mutant Growth Hormone. He injects himself with too much, and grows to the size of a truck.

    Fan Works 
  • In From Muddy Waters, Izuku's strength enhancement Quirks tend to increase his muscle mass at the same time. He usually focuses this into his arms and legs, which can grow considerably from noticeably more defined, to obviously bulkier, to downright grotesque in a manner that reminds All Might of Izuku's father, All For One.
  • A fishman with a pufferfish aspect is able to beef up into a Top-Heavy Guy form that is capable of going toe-to-toe with Ryoga Hibiki in Voyages of the Wild Sea Horse.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Nerdlucks turning into the Monstars in Space Jam. Bugs Bunny, being a Looney Toon, is not above faking one to convince his teammates that "Michael's Secret Stuff" works.
  • Teetsi in "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" has a tone-up sequence when he is awaken from sleep to fight Alex. It is greatly emphasized by the camera tilting over his body as his muscles quickly pop out one by one.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • Feruchemists in the Mistborn series are able to store physical strength over time to be called on later. When tapping strength, a Feruchemist's body changes into a form capable of handling the increased power.
  • Princesses of the Pizza Parlor: In Princesses in the Darkest Depths, Cassie changing into a form more suited for combat, is described:
    she could feel her legs stretch and muscles grow to launch her faster and farther than a normal girl should.

    Live-Action TV 

    Video Games 
  • Altered Beast (1988) has your character undergo two such transformations for the first two Power Ups he collects in a stage. His transformation into a beast once they pick up the third also has elements of this.
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum has this happen to a depowered Bane and some of Joker's goons when they get injected with "Titan", a derivative of the Venom normally used by Bane. It almost happens to Batman when he takes the bullet for Commissioner Gordon, but he's able to resist the transformation until he takes an antidote. The Joker, on the other hand...
  • In Kirby Star Allies, this happens to King Dedede of all characters due to the influence of a Jamba Heart, complete with close-ups on his newly obtained biceps and pecs.
  • A staple of the Resident Evil franchise. While the T-Virus doesn't seem to provoke this effect, other, faster-acting or more prone to physical mutation ones like the G-Virus or T-Veronica virus tend to do this.
  • Casting the Atlas alchemy spell in Secret of Evermore briefly shows the Boy swell up into a herculean state almost four times bigger than his normal self.
  • One of the transformations in Shape Shift Shawn has Shawn turn into a muscular yellow ogre. While in this form, he can effortlessly plow through most regular enemies, but he also has the ability to destroy the level itself, smashing through solid walls and floors.
  • Rick undergoes a pretty gruesome one in the opening cutscene of the updated Splatterhouse.
    Terror Mask: Aw, quit whining. Did I say it was gonna be fun?
  • Warcraft:
    • The Bleeding Hollow clan from World of Warcraft uses a Blood Magic ritual to invoke this on their berserkers, turning them into massive, hulking orcs. Ariok voluntarily undergoes this same ritual in order to buy the player and their allies enough time to escape the clan during the intro for Warlords of Draenor. He ends up becoming even more massive than said hulking orcs in the process.
    • The Blood Curse that the orcs took from Mannoroth in the earlier games also increased their body mass, but to a much lesser extent than the mentioned blood ritual.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Naked Butler, Mizoguchi Toyoharu, a 56-year-old man, does this to rip through ropes and his own shirt. Yes, it's every bit as crazy and hilarious as it sounds.
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies: The DLC case includes a scene like this when you start closing in on the culprit. Apparently, fish-barrel water buffs you up like nothing else.

    Web Animation 
  • "The return of Ganon" by kekeflipnote parodies the "Rehydrated Ganon" meme from The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom: Link and Zelda (who are birds in this video) are unimpressed when they find Ganon, who's thin as a twig... until he absorbs a water puddle and grows into a huge, buff guy. However, he is quickly defeated when Link crafts a magnifying glass to focus sunlight and evaporate the water, turning Ganon back to his skinny form.
  • Hazel Rainart, one of the direct servants of the Big Bad in RWBY, reveals this talent in Volume 5. By stabbing raw crystals of electric Dust into his upper arms, Hazel's arms noticeably swell with his veins protruding. He also gains some slight electrical powers from this enhancement, making him a literal example of a Lightning Bruiser.


    Western Animation 
  • The Bananaman cartoon shows Little Eric swelling with muscles during his transformation. This was backported into the comic strip, which had previously represented the transformation with an explosion panel.
  • The Batman: Bane goes through this thanks to his Venom, as does Joker in the episode "Brawn" when he steals Bane's equipment and uses it on himself.
  • Ben 10: Vilgax in the early seasons has cybernetic Spikes of Villainy that do this.
  • DC Super Hero Girls: In "#SheMightBeGiant", it happens to Doris Zeul (a.k.a. Giganta) when she unleashes her newfound powers for the first time, complete with close-ups of her bulging muscles and growing figure.
  • Powerful Pierre in the Heckle and Jeckle cartoon "Log Rollers" flexes his muscles on his arm, his pinky finger, his tongue, his ears and finally his eyelash.
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: Prince Adam's transformation to He-Man usually doesn't involve this, despite the former being an ordinary Eternian and the latter "the most powerful man in the universe". In the first series, this was because He-Man is pretty much Prince Adam with a tan and less clothes on. In the 2002 series a sequence is used for a few episodes in the second season, until He-Man gets his armor.
  • Happens to Jade from Jackie Chan Adventures in the episode "The Amazing T-Troop" when she uses the ox talisman. Interestingly, while the ox talisman does grant the user the power of super strength, this is the only occurrence where this trope is applied.
  • Occurs in the Justice League Unlimited episode "Patriot Act" after a mad general steals a Super Serum and injects himself with it.
  • Kaeloo: A sequence depicting this happening is often played when Kaeloo transforms into Bad Kaeloo. The most attention is paid to her buttocks.
  • The Kim Possible episode "Ron the Man" practically centers around this trope. When Dr. Drakken gets jealous of Professor Dementor's superior henchmen, he steals rings that can make a person more muscular in order to enhance his men. Ron ends up stealing a ring himself to make himself beefier so as to be seen as a man, and he later gives that ring to Rufus, who buffs himself up to make Drakken surrender. There's even a scene earlier in the episode where the CEO of HenchCo shows Kim and Ron an instructional video for the muscle enhancing ring, depicting a man in a swimsuit, who looks similar in appearance to Ron, putting on the ring and twisting it to activate it, before turning into a massive bodybuilder and performing a most muscular flex in celebration of his new physique.
  • Looney Tunes:
  • Billy turning back into Ganthar in Martin Mystery.
  • In each episode of The Miniavengers, a kid will pass through a momentary but incredibly exaggerated sequence before getting their superpower, temporarily ending up dozens of times the size of the earth.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Power Ponies", resident Shrinking Violet Fluttershy becomes the Incredible Hulk-esque "Saddle Rager" in the comic book world. She hulks out and wrecks the villain's Doomsday Device with her bare hooves (and teeth) after witnessing her swat a "teensy, little, harmless firefly" with her mane.
  • Regular Show has two examples. In "One Pull Up", Rigby uses a product called The Russian to make his muscles grow so he can do a pull up to keep his job. In a another episode called "Power Tower", Muscle Man lifts up weights to save his dad from suffocating to death and makes his muscles grow extremely fast.
  • In the Rick and Morty episode "Something Ricked This Way Comes", Rick and Summer both workout using steroids to get muscle extremely fast to beat up Mr. Needful as payback.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Bart has an Imagine Spot where he's a professional human guinea pig. He takes one sip of Nature's Goodness soda and turns into a deformed monster.
    • In "Itchy & Scratchy Land", the opening Itchy & Scratchy sketch has Scratchy lift weights for a few seconds which makes his muscles grow big instantly.
  • The SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Karate Island" has two of these as Sandy and the episode's antagonist Master Udon prepare for their battle. This even has Master Udon's eyebrows and Sandy's tail flexing into the shape of muscular arms. This is just for show, their figures are back to normal when their battle begins, both of them missing their opening charge.
  • Super Duper Sumos is a rare case where the characters are already bulky; what they are gaining in the transformation is definition.
  • Tramm, sidekick to Aqualad in Teen Titans (2003), is a humanoid blowfish who has the ability to transform from his normally small, scrawny self into a much larger (at least around the chest and arms) form with Super-Strength when he needs to fight.
  • The Totally Spies! episode "The Incredible Bulk" has a plot involving power bars that cause anyone who eats them to go through a series of such transformations until they finally explode.
  • Prime and Hardcase from Ultraforce. For the former, it's a standard transformation sequence, for the latter a permanent change.
  • Raimundo from Xiaolin Showdown has this issue when the Shen Gong Wu keeps magnetically pulling towards him, making him increasingly more powerful to the point that he is virtually invincible, with Wuya attempting to use him as a vessel for her to defeat the monks.


Video Example(s):


She-Hulk Transforms

Jennifer Walters's first transformation into She-Hulk is portrayed as an exhilarated experience, and she uses her new powers to free herself.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (18 votes)

Example of:

Main / TransformationExhilaration

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