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Heroic Build

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No hero is complete without a bodybuilder's physique.

"Men should be buff, women should be vavoom!"

We all know that certain things come along with having superpowers. No, we're not talking about responsibility, justice, or even the American way (or whatever is their Evil Counterpart, for the morally villainous). We're talking about a great body.

Wherever spandex and capes are found, so too are sculpted chests, broad shoulders, narrow waists and washboard abs. Wherever there are chainmail bikinis, there are large breasts, curvy hips, and shapely legs. It could almost be called a secondary power in itself - the ability to have a perfect physique.

This is true even for heroic men whose powers do not include physical strength, such as psychics, speedsters, and super-scientists. For example, you wouldn't expect someone with an Imagination-Based Superpower to have a bodybuilder's physique just from concentrating on things really hard, but it is so. It's just become a convention of the genre, and many comic book artists don't know how to draw in any other way. Even ordinary civilians will often be implausibly muscular.


Some parts of this may be Justified, since many superheroes/supervillains seem to spend a great deal of their off time training rigorously, or for that matter, running around and getting exercise on the job. Although one should note that, for females at least, reducing body fat tends to make a figure a lot less lush than that of the typical superheroine/supervillainess. And forget about Stout Strength.

Note that in classical sculpture, the term "heroic proportion" refers to characters with healthy figures who stand eight or more heads high (i.e. their head is an eighth or less of their total height). This imposing figure was used for statues of Greek gods and later biblical figures (Michelangelo's David, for instance). It is a given that almost all western superheroes and supervillains are eight-and-a-half heads tall or more, and most fashion designers sketch their ideas onto outlines of over eight heads. However, in early Marvel comics, as well as a few from other houses, this rule was subverted: heavily built figures were often drawn with huge heads in proportion to their height so that they looked squat and burly despite being over six foot (see early versions of the Thing, Hulk or the Kingpin).


Sub-Trope of Beauty = Goodness.

Super-Trope to Most Common Superpower.

Compare Hollywood Homely, Sculpted Physique, Lantern Jaw of Justice, Top-Heavy Guy, Amazonian Beauty, Muscles Are Meaningless, Muscles Are Meaningful.

Please limit examples to exceptions, justifications, and exaggerations.


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  • Some cultures did not have the same standards for heroic proportions as those of the West. For example, medieval Japan favored stocky builds with barrel chests, believing that strength originates from a person's core. For this reason, samurai were often depicted with big bellies, in contrast to the heroic V-shaped torso.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Tiger & Bunny, Mr. Legend wasn't just an old, fat superhero — he was an old, fat superhero that just happened to be the best damned superhero of his time, and possibly the first superhero. You know, when he wasn't beating his wife.
  • Most characters in Naruto e.g Might Guy, Rock Lee, Tsunade, Sakura, Sasuke, Itachi and Naruto's dad Minato are extremely powerful despite being very skinny. Played with however as Naruto has a Heroic Build with his shirt off and there are strong characters like A and Killer B who are muscle-clad.
  • In Yowamushi Pedal, Tadokoro Jin is one such member of Sakamichi Onoda's team. Sure he may be a big eater and may come off as a fat cyclist. But he tends to get more better. Which leads to his buff stature.
  • Berserk: Griffith pre-Eclipse demolished the muscle bound Guts effortlessly. Judeah and Serpico also are bean polls who are capable of taking out larger foes.
  • In Toriko, The main protagonist after the name of the series, is a heavy eater. But yet never gets fat. Yet when it comes to hunting for food, he has a Bruiser with a Soft Center attitude of for others even Komatsu, as if he was his very own brother or son.
  • Dragon Ball Z
    • The Saiyans are a race of Big Eaters. Goku is the best example of this that he will eat until his belly balloons. Despite this, Goku has no fat and has muscles everywhere.
    • Unlike most of the heroes, Krillin has a small build and can't dish out the level of power the Saiyans, Half-Saiyans and Namekians can. However despite his size Krillin is still a Physical God compared to us puny mortals (along with Tien and Yamcha) having has enough power to blow Earth into space dust if he wanted to.
    • Android 19. Gero gave him a fat, Gonk design. He is still quite powerful, being many times more powerful than Frieza.
    • Android 20, based on old man since he is Dr. Gero. He's stronger than 19, or so he claims.
    • Android 17 and 18 are built like skinny teenagers, but the pair were still strong enough to slaughter the Z-Fighters and commit near global genocide in the Bad Future. However played with as the hulking Android 16 far outstrips 17 & 18 in terms of power as well as the ridiculously muscly Super Saiyan 2 Grade.
    • The fittingly named Fat Buu. Although he is the less dangerous (and eventually the weakest) of all the other Buu forms, who fit into the Lean and Mean category, he is still one of the strongest characters in the series. His fat body absorbs almost all damage and he uses his fat to crush people.
  • One Piece
    • Despite being of the strongest characters, Luffy is a rather beany person, something that is often lampshaded. When the Time Skip happened, Usopp gains a Heroic Build while Luffy remains as skinny as ever. He is also much stronger than Usopp.
    • Played with as males like Sanji, Rob Lucci and especially Silvers Rayleigh have skinny builds thanks to the art style but remain some of the strongest fighters in the series. And yet at the same time underneath their clothes they all possess a Heroic Build.
    • Admirals Kizaru and Aokiji. They are both very lean people, yet they are second only to the Four Emperors in strength. This is mostly because their Devil Fruit powers don't rely on brute strength, though Aokiji was shown to have a Heroic Build in One Piece Film: Z.
    • Shanks is good example as while he has a relatively fit build, he doesn't have the enormous muscular figures that Whitebeard and Kaido possess and is tiny compared to them; but he still matched the humongous Whitebeard in a clash... one-handed.
    • Yonko Big Mom is fat old woman, who wrecked Luffy with ease and walked though an iron door like it was cardboard.

    Comic Books 
  • Subverted with Hulkling in Young Avengers. His heroic build is just shapeshifting to emulate the jocks at school. Before that, he was a runt. Annoyingly, Hulkling keeps this muscular build even after being exposed to a device that should reveal his true form.
  • The Blob (one of the X-Men's villains) is a Nigh Invulnerable Fat Bastard. His resistance to damage is derived from his excessive elastic like-skin.
  • Great Lakes Avengers:
    • Big Bertha has complete control over her adipose tissue, and the ability to create "superbulk" in her body that basically turns her into a female version of the Blob (though not quite as Nigh Invulnerable as him). She also only has her superhuman strength and durability while bulked up.
    • Flatman pretty much doesn't need to have a Heroic Build, given his stretching powers, and due to being flat most of the time, doesn't appear to have much of a definition as all. On the exceedingly rare occasion where he is depicted not flattening himself, he appears to have a rather average body.
  • Static notably doesn't have this because he is first of all, a normal, somewhat skinny teenager, and also because his powers have nothing to do with his body, physically.
    • Nightcrawler is usually depicted with either a gymnast's or a swimmer's body (or sometimes just out-and-out scrawny). When he is drawn especially muscular it's usually his legs rather than torso that are overdeveloped.
    • X-Men leader Cyclops was initially quite a scrawny lad, hence his nickname "Slim." However, he has long since filled out.
  • Ben Grimm, aka "The Thing" from Fantastic Four, is a mishmash. In the comic books, as Ben Grimm, he's fairly muscular; as The Thing, he's pretty much rectangular with no definition at all. In the movies, Michael Chiklis as Ben is less sculpted, but Thing has distinct abs, biceps and triceps.
    • Also on John Byrne's run on Fantastic Four he drew both Reed Richards and Johnny Storm skinnier and less buff as they looked when they first appeared in 1961.
  • Dr. Banner of Incredible Hulk is not particularly muscular or defined as himself (Bill Bixby, who played Banner in the TV show, was widely regarded as having the proper physique); how sculpted he becomes when he Hulks out depends on the artist.
  • Let's not forget Fatman, the Human Flying Saucer!
  • Subverted by Herbie The Fat Fury. Superficially he is a fat, rotund, bespectacled loser with a Moe Howard haircut, with a costume consisting of red longjohns and a toilet plunger on his head. But armed with his magic lollipops, he has enough powers and abilities to take on anyone like bank robbers, alien invaders, and Satan.
  • Avengers: The Initiative member Butterball is overweight, and because his Nigh-Invulnerability powers prevent his body from changing, will always be overweight.
    • Before they gave up on training him, the Initiative program theorized that a starvation diet would probably cause him to lose weight but it would take months.
  • In Major Bummer, Gecko and Francis are both very skinny.
  • Red Tornado of The DCU— not the current Red Tornado, but the Golden Age Red Tornado — a chubby, crimefighting housewife named Ma Hunkel.
  • Roxanne Spaulding (aka Freefall) of Gen13 is usually drawn as having relatively small breasts and moderate curves, at least compared to her teammates Fairchild and Rainmaker. (Emphasis on 'relatively'.)
  • Peter Parker in Ultimate Spider-Man retains his scrawny teenage physique even though he has superhuman strength. In the regular Marvel comics, Spidey's physique was sometimes closer to a jogger than a bodybuilder, Depending on the Artist. On the other hand, it's also not unusual for characters to be surprised by those firm biceps that uber-nerd Peter Parker is hiding under his baggy shirt. Usually said biceps are (when displayed by the skintight Spidey suit) merely well-toned rather than massively bulging like most superheroes.
    • Some will even draw him very thin. You will often hear artists say that Spider-Man has a gymnast's body. While female gymnasts tend to be very small and thin, male gymnasts are actually quite muscular, if slim.
  • Nightwing was an acrobat and usually portrayed as such. A tad muscular for that, but only occasionally did someone draw him as a full-on bodybuilder.
    • Likewise, in Batman comics, Tim Drake (Robin III/Red Robin III) is usually drawn as leaner than Nightwing. While they can both end up more muscled, Depending on the Artist, they are usually shown on the leaner side in comparison to Bruce and Jason.
    • Also Damian Wayne, justified as he's only about 10-11 years old. When people do draw him with a full out heroic build, it nears Uncanny Valley.
  • Big Atomic Lantern Boy of The DCU's Super Young Team is a little chubby, but not truly fat. He tries to hide it under a Badass Longcoat, with moderate success.
  • Top 10 plays this straight only with a few characters: Smax, Peregrine, and King Peacock. Other than that, the cast ranges from scrawny (Shock-Headed Peter, Toybox) to paunchy (Spaceman, Irma Geddon, the Word) to simply average (Synaesthesia, Jack Phantom, Dust Devil). Of course, given the setting - a city where everyone is a science hero - this only makes sense.
  • Lobo, supreme icon of Sheer Manliness (and example of Testosterone Poisoning), had kind of an average build in the first issues of Justice League International that he appeared in, but as his popularity grew, so did his physique. Depending on the artist, he makes Mr. Olympia look like Woody Allen, often becoming Top-Heavy Guy.
  • Like Spider-Man, The Flash (any of them) are often drawn as "jogger" rather than "bodybuilder". Which makes sense since they're fast rather than strong. This does vary between them, however, with Wally and Jay (who was a football player in college) tending to be closer to this trope than Barry and Bart.
  • The Kingpin, of Daredevil (and occasionally Spider-Man), is a borderline case; while he lives in a superhero universe, he has no powers. Thus, Stout Strength is invoked rather than Heroic Build.
  • In Jonathan Hickman's Avengers, Kevin Connor is a scrawny teenager who receives superhuman strength and durability (among other destructive powers) from the Starbrand, yet still stays just as physically skinny as he was before he got the powers.
  • Kate Kane is drawn rather lean in Batwoman (Rebirth), possibly to reflect her official height and weight (5'11" and 141 lbs, respectively). She resembles a boxer or MMA fighter more than a bodybuilder.
  • Brody from Brody's Ghost is initially a mere ghostseer with a lanky frame and beer gut. But as he's trained into a more muscular appearance, his powers also begin getting stronger to match.
  • Honor Guest (The Silencer), a former assassin, has a lean, muscular build that one would expect from someone in her line of work.
  • As his name would suggest, Bouncing Boy from Legion of Super-Heroes is usually depicted with a big round belly, and he actually inflates when he bounces.
  • The New Mutants were all drawn as scrawny, gawky teens, and it wasn't until years down the line- after puberty and intensive training in the Danger Room- that they gained the standard superhero body. The one exception is Roberto, who was always in shape due to being a star football player before his mutant power appeared.

    Fan Works 
  • Iris in Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, who is the most physically capable member of Ash's group, is described as lacking a curvaceous body type. Gary Oak later describes her build as "a track team member". Nonetheless, Ash and several others consider her fairly attractive in her own way.

  • Guards! Guards! has Carrot Ironfoundersson, an enormous muscular human who was raised by dwarves. He undertakes an uneventful 500 mile journey to the city, with the narration noting that people with his sort of build often have uneventful journeys.
    People jump out at them from behind rocks then say thing like, "Oh. Sorry. I thought you were someone else."
    • Even his name is a reference to this:
    The young man is called Carrot. This is not because of his hair, which his father has always clipped short for reasons of Hygiene. It is because of his shape. It is the kind of tapering shape a boy gets through clean living, healthy eating, and good mountain air in huge lungfuls. When he flexes his shoulder muscles, other muscles have to move out of the way first.
  • The female version often comes with an hourglass figure: this is deconstructed at one point in Soon I Will Be Invincible, when female cyborg Fatale observes that her torso has to be roomy enough to accommodate a miniaturized power core. Most of the other female characters play the trope straight, to her chagrin.
  • An interesting example in Warbreaker, the returned have the appearance that is, to their individual taste, perfect, along with the fitness that comes with it. However, they are useless in a fight, because their pampered lifestyle leaves them unprepared for pain and they have no combat training unless they had it when they died.
  • In Wearing the Cape, Atlas, the setting's Superman character, wears a sculpted muscle-suit that mimics a Mister Atlas body. Elsewhere, Hope notes that not all superheroes can get away with spandex, and the Hollywood Knights are chosen not just for their powers but also for their physiques (often the result of personal trainers and plastic surgeons).
  • Wild Cards: most "Aces" look like regular humans. And the "Joker-Aces" are those who got both powers (hence "Ace") and deformities (hence "Joker") from the same transformation, e.g. Bloat.
  • Worm: "Case 53" describes those who lost their human shape as a side effect of a Super Serum. This can range from fairly benign to utterly grotesque.

    Live Action TV 
  • While Power Rangers toys and merchandising range from "realistically muscled" to "standard buff superhero" to "ridiculously overexaggerated", the show itself averts this as the Ranger suits show no definition at all. Well, with three exceptions: Andros and Shane got muscle definition as part of their "Battlized" Super Modes (done in order to match the toys); and Xander got a magic spell that gave him gigantic bodybuilder musculature.
  • The Adam West version of Batman was rather lumpy in comparison to most other incarnations of Batman.
  • Most males in the Buffyverse like Giles, Oz, Gunn and Wesley don't have a Heroic Build but can easily matched those who do. Played straight on both genders as Buffy and the rest of Slayers plus female vampires like Darla, Drusilla and Harmony have lithe figures and yet are incredibly strong. In fact you have harder time finding those who are muscular or have large builds like Angel, Spike, Lindsey and Hamilton.
  • A fair number of Heroes don't fit into this trope, including but not limited to Hiro Nakamura and Matt Parkman.
  • A lack of this is justified in The Flash by the fact that Barry has both a healing factor and a metabolism that is extraordinarily fast. When he first gains his powers, he keeps blacking out due to low blood sugar. Cisco states that he needs to consume the equivalent of 850 tacos a day just to break even on his energy consumption. For those playing at home, that's tens of thousands of calories. This explains his lean, low-body fat build common to long-distance runners, as getting fat or building more muscle mass would require even more food. As he finds out in the first episode, the lightning that gave him his powers threw in another bonus...
    Barry: Lightning gave me abs?

    Mythology & Religion 
  • Samson from The Bible is an interesting case: there was an archæological site found where he allegedly pushed the stone pillars and killing all those Philistines; the evidence showed the broken pillars were probably pushed by a large man with such a physique. Many religious Jews used it as proof of the historicity of the Bible; however, Israeli writer and columnist Meir Shalev pointed out in his column that Samson is actually described as a frail-looking man, far from the image we often think of him today, since his supernatural strength came from God he might have not had the Heroic Build people think of.

  • Sidekick Girl: Most sidekicks got their position because they did not have this- Val and Hazel are flat, Jasper has a gut to go along with his massive musculature, and nobody can tell what Chris's gender is. The one known exception is Sparkle, who had the attributes but didn't pass her all her classes in hero school.
  • Grrl Power: While most super heroines are incredibility photogenic and highly muscled, the main character Sydney Scoville is not, due to her powers coming from an external artifact. Harem is also fairly average looking compared to the others.
    Sydney: I didn't realize it was possible to feel both skinny and fat at the same time.
    Sandy: This place is just magic like that.
  • Averted by Amazi-girl from Dumbing of Age who is downright pudgy, as various characters remark at one time or another
  • In C Karrus'' most of the men seem to have this, heroes and villains alike.
  • In Axe Cop, Reality Warper superhero Uni-Man was originally drawn as a deliberate aversion — he originally gained his powers from being really smart, so he looked like a stereotypical skinny old professor. Eventually, though, he transformed himself to become really buff, dwarfing the other male heroes who usually play the trope straight. A couple of others are also exceptions, though, including the skinny Leaf-Man and Mr. Stocker, the superhero with no powers who also doesn't look like a superhero at all.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Grace could choose to use a bodybuilder's physique as "Shade Tail" since she's a shapeshifter but doesn't because she doesn't have the skill to pull off having beefy muscles and good dexterity and prefers to use a compromise form.

    Video Games 
  • While still quite fit, Link from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is very short and slender, dwarfed even by the petite Princess Zelda. Several NPCs he runs into will express disbelief that he's the Hylian Champion and chosen wielder of the Master Sword simply because he looks too slight to even use it properly.
  • Leon S. Kennedy from Resident Evil has a pretty skinny frame but still displays feats of Super Strength and equals the muscle-clad Chris Redfield in physical combat.
    • The same logic applies to Albert Wesker even though he has visible muscle mass but lacks the sheer bulk of Chris (but nevertheless demolishes the latter in their fights). This trope applies to the lithe RE ladies such Jill Valentine, Claire Redfield and Ada Wong.
  • Geralt of The Witcher, while taller than most characters and visibly muscular, is rather lean, built more like a distance swimmer than a bodybuilder or heavyweight fighter. This is in stark contrast to Letho, as noted in the exaggerations below.

    Web Original 
  • While some of the characters in the Global Guardians PBEM Universe had heroic builds, you'd just as likely find a superhero who was skinny, or slightly overweight. Mostly, this happened with the Badass Normals, who justifiably worked out to keep their physiques.


    Anime & Manga 
  • The commercialized nature of superheroics in Tiger & Bunny makes appearance just as important as actual heroics (especially for heroes marketed on their sex appeal, such as Blue Rose and Barnaby Brooks Jr.). Thus, HeroTV's provided the heroes with training facilities, which they use quite frequently in their downtime.
  • The soldiers of Attack on Titan are all shown to be in incredible shape, with washboard abs and lean, muscular physiques. It's entirely justified, as their equipment and standard method of fighting requires them to be able to perform on the level of an Olympic gymnast or professional acrobat. A strong core and powerful leg muscles are noted to be absolutely vital to using the 3-dimensional Maneuver Gear safely. Since the artist uses professional Mixed Martial Artists as models and references, their builds tend to accurately reflect how different body types build up muscle.
  • In Sailor Moon Minako, Haruka, Ami, and Michiru are the only ones among the Sailor Soldiers shown to actually work out (Minako) or otherwise do intensive sports (Haruka is a runner, and, at least in the anime, Ami and Michiru swim often). Fittingly, Minako and Haruka are stated to be the most in-shape of the Senshi-much to Minako's chagrin, as she had been tricked into starting to work out in her solo series and she only realized the result when her new muscles caused her to rip her skirt's costume.
  • In Tokyo Ghoul, being in peak physical condition is a basic requirement for most Ghoul Investigators. Their career involves taking on superhuman beings that are physically superior to them in every fashion, so being in the best possible shape is necessary for survival. Some take it to greater extremes, with people like Koutarou Amon and Kuki Urie shown to be obsessive in their training regimens and absolutely ripped as a direct result. In :Re, training facilities are shown and discussion is held about the importance of being physically prepared because major Combat Operations are like very violent marathons, taxing them to their limits.
  • In Devilman, the demonic fusion that grants Akira his powers also gives him an impressively athletic figure in his default human state. Just how dramatic the change is varies by installment or adaptation, ranging from fairly subtle in the manga to impossible to ignore in Crybaby.
  • My Hero Academia
    • All Might has been rendered weak and emaciated as a result of injuries he sustained that cost him a few organs. He is still able to buff up when he uses his Quirk "One For All" and can still work as a hero, but not for too long: overexertion causes him to start coughing up blood.
    • When we are introduced to Izuku Midoriya, he is a very skinny and shrimpy kid. After All Might names Midoriya his successor, he subjects the young man to Training from Hell for ten months so that his body wouldn't explode when he inherits One For All. By the time U.A. Academy's entrance exams begin, Midoriya's training has given him a toned and muscular body. He continues to work out while at U.A., slowly gaining more muscle over time and allowing him to control more of One For All.
    • Mirio Togata is shown to have a very muscular body-and is openly stated to have trained immensely. This is one of the reasons why Sir Nighteye and Nezu had proposed All Might to have him inherit One For All... Well after All Might had started training Izuku.
    • In general, Heroes and those training to become that tend to be very muscular out of necessity: even with the Quirks, being a Hero is physically straining and they need to take that. This is shown in the battle between Mirio Togata and Overhaul, with Mirio inflicting a very long beating on the yakuza simply because of his physical superiority, only losing due a combination of Overhaul regenerating and hitting him with a Quirk-destroying bullet causing him to eventually grow tired... And still leaving Overhaul mentally scarred from what Mirio did him after losing his Quirk.
  • In Black Clover, Asta is almost freakishly muscular for his age due to subjecting himself to Training from Hell from an early age to make up for his lack of magic.

    Comic Books 
  • DC Comics's Major Bummer (see listing at Missed the Call) has a sculpted physique due to Imported Alien Phlebotinum but he uses it as little as possible.
  • Caitlin Fairchild of Gen13 went from a Hot Librarian to Amazonian Beauty because that's part of the powers she gained, as evidenced by an attempt to copy her Super Strength that also resulted in another superpower... on a guy.
  • When Jon Osterman's original body was destroyed in a Freak Lab Accident he built himself a new one based on the ideal male form to become Doctor Manhattan of Watchmen.
  • The X-Men, when drawn more muscular, do have the justification of all the workouts in the Danger Room.
    • They've also tried to justify this a few times with the idea that mutants generically get an Olympic-level physique and Spidey-level rapid healing. It never really took.
  • Steve Rogers (aka Captain America) has a rather impressive physique, justified by the Super-Soldier Serum that turned him into the peak of physical perfection.
  • Batman. We see him training all the time, and his abilities solely come from that physical training. Same with Jason Todd, Green Arrow, Wildcat, etc.
    • When Colin Wilkes turns into Abuse, he gains this build, but is more heavily built than the average hero due to it coming from the same stuff Bane uses.
  • Venom (when he was first introduced, rather than the Huge Dude he became later), in contrast to Spider-Man, was enormous. This was because Eddie Brock was a nigh-obsessive bodybuilder.
    • Flash Thompson was in the military for a few years and before that was heavily into sports so it makes sense that he'd be muscular. However, he is still smaller than Eddie.
  • Justified with Archangel from X-Men, since zero body fat and peak human musculature to support his Wings are explicitly part of his mutation.
  • Justified by Power & Glory, as A-Pex is the product of a government-sponsored project to create a patriotic superheroic ideal. Too bad he has a crippling fear of disease that leaves him incapable of fighting anyone...
  • Teddy Altman aka Hulkling in Young Avengers has a perfectly muscular classical build because he's a shapeshifter and deliberately changed his body to look more like the buff boys he saw in the school locker rooms.
  • When transformed, the Guardians of Kandrakar from W.I.T.C.H. look like they'd want to look when older thanks to their magic. This is best shown by Cornelia, who, being perfectly happy with her body shape, merely transforms into an older version of herself.

    Fan Works 
  • In Of Quirks, Dwarves, One For All and Arkenstone, Izuku Midoriya and Bilbo Baggins undergo a "Freaky Friday" Flip every few days, living out a day in each other's lives. During this time, they discover that the effects of physical exertion from either end of the flip ends up affecting both of them. So Bilbo ends up working out in Izuku's body while Izuku works out in Bilbo's body to prepare himself to use One For All. Combine that with the protein-rich and energizing hobbit diet and you have one leanly muscular teenage human and another sturdily built hobbit. Bilbo ends up so muscular that a Dwalin, a warrior dwarf, initially mistakes Bilbo for a warrior and ends up challenging him to an arm wrestle that Bilbo would have won if not for the dwarf bailing out.
  • The Pieces Lie Where They Fell: Captain General Gentle Step of the Royal Guard has this, and she's worked for it - her body muscle mass is described as having "seemed to belong to an earth pony that had trained themselves to the cusp of being unhealthy opposed to a unicorn".
  • Miraculous Ladybug fanfic often describe Marinette and Adrien as rather muscular, justifying it with baking without electric tools (something that requires solid muscles) and having to always run to not get late at school for Marinette, the gymnastics required to stay in shape for his modeling career and his sports activities for Adrien, and the extreme physical efforts they take as Ladybug and Chat Noir for both.

  • The Incredibles: Mr. Incredible is a Justified example, as he is indeed shown to lose shape with age until he started training again. He doesn't go all the way back to his youthful heroic build, either.
  • Kristoff of Frozen due to being both an ice harvester and adopted by trolls, who are really heavy rocklike beings who often climb on him.

    Live Action TV 
  • Stephen Amell of Arrow fame justifies Oliver Queen's physique by performing most of the stunt work himself, which he would not be able to do without being exceptionally in shape himself. Numerous scenes in Season 1 were dedicated to watching Oliver work out (shirtless, of course), and a Training Montage in Season 2 shows him exercising in order to become ready for the acrobatic fighting and parkour-based movement he uses.

    Video Games 

    Web Comics 
  • Part of the premise of Sidekick Girl is that the Hero Agency actually selects for this, so almost all heroes are buff and heroines are bombshells. For the exceptions to that rule (who become sidekicks), see the Webcomic folder on the 'exceptions' section.

    Web Original 
  • Whateley Universe: The Exemplar power set, which usually shapes bearers into looking like their ideal self, justifies this in-universe; an estimated 20% of WU mutants have some degree of this trait because they think it's the ideal.
    • However, even those with the Exemplar trait don't always possess this, since the power doesn't have to work from an idealized version of themselves, or their ideal self isn't what they expected. In some cases, its a reflection of their worst fears instead. A heroic build is merely the most common result of this.
    • Also, since the Exemplar power works at least in part on the mutant's self-perception, it can go to exaggerated degrees as well, such as Bravo's absurdly-sized Lantern Jaw of Justice or Attributes' Gag Boobs.
    • Attempts to duplicate the Exemplar trait by Devisors and Wizards are frequent, and almost invariably fail. The closest successes to date were Compiler (who gained a Barbie-doll like figure by means of nanotechnology, but now cannot control her super-strength or super-speed), Spark and Reach (who did it by accident), Delta Spike (who entrusted her life to a Mad Scientist and who might have been brainwashed into total subservience in the process), and Jobe's Drow (who were completely transformed into dark elves by the serum) note . For the majority, such as Migraine (who became trapped in an immobile exoskeleton and went insane), it didn't work out at all. Outside of the school, there are several examples as well, such as Dr. Venus' treatments (both those she uses herself and those for her 'studmuffins'), Akelarre's potion, and whatever it was which Belphegor appears to have used by 2016, but most have some limitations attached to them (for example, Dr. Venus' treatments only last a limited time, and eventually need to be renewed, or replaced by some new treatment).
  • In Worm, Triumph's powers specifically aid in forming such a physique while Browbeat can use biokinesis to adapt such a physique.
  • In Brennus the Adonis expression of the Physique power reshapes the body according to their perception of attractiveness, much as in the Whateley Universe. Among Western men, it often results in this.
  • One of the key reasons the Plumbing the Death Star episode "Why Isn't Nightcrawler Fat" exists is that there are no conventionally fat members of the X-Men even if most of them have powers with no relation to physical exertion. Ultimately, the three cast members agree to the "Joel Duscher Bird Theory," the idea that mutant powers must burn calories and fat like physical exercise, although that comes with its own problems and invoked Fridge Logic.


    Anime and Manga 
  • The page quote refers, at least in part, to Alex Louis Armstrong of Fullmetal Alchemist, who could, in brief, be described as three ordinary men worth of muscles crammed into a frequently disappearing shirt. His devotion to displaying his exaggerated musculature at all costs is both frequently comedic (at one point he forms a lifelong friendship with the similarly strong Sig Curtis by having a flex-off) and a pretty overt case of Author Appeal.

    Comic Books 
  • Superman
    • The adult Superman is one of the earliest and most blatant examples, since in the comics and cartoons he is nearly always shown to have a bodybuilder's physique, despite the fact that his powers originally came from his species being highly evolved. Later this was changed to sunlight AND Krypton having a higher gravity, then just sunlight.
    • In Superman's earliest appearances, he was fairly lean. Later interpretations generally gave him a bodybuilder physique, or at-least a fairly buff one.
    • Kryptonians still get stronger by increasing muscle mass. That's why Power Girl works out so much.
    • His original designs were based on the circus strongmen of the time.
    • Superman's physique probably also reflects what's considered "impressive" during various time-eras. For example, Curt Swan's Superman looked in-shape, but not ridiculously muscular. Contrast his appearance by various modern artists, where he looks like he'd give Arnold Schwarzenegger's physique a run for its money.
    • Pre-Crisis, the Fortress of Solitude was sometimes shown with specialized workout equipment (a robot sparring partner for boxing practice appeared in the first Fortress story, for instance). Ditto the Golden Age Superman; in his mountain retreat, had some specialized workout equipment. (Said equipment appeared again in a Bronze Age "Mr. and Mrs. Superman" story). As Clark, he worked during the Silver and Bronze Age at Ma and Pa Kent's general store (not a farm) for most of his childhood/teen years, and (to protect his identity) seldom participated in sports.
  • Rob Liefeld is immensely fond of drawing grossly exaggerated human physiques, hence the parody character Bloodpouch. At least in one example, his picture of Captain America, is due to him using a body builder as reference to present Steve Rogers with much larger muscles (but he uses one of a body builder flexing his pecs and arms, something he doesn't show Rogers doing).
  • Strong Guy from X-Factor has an immensely exaggerated musculature. Also justified in that a childhood accident with his mutant powers permanently deformed him (he didn't learn until afterward that he needed to quickly use his enhanced strength, i.e. hit something, in order to shed the excess bulk), and he's in constant pain because of it.
  • The Juggernaut is often depicted often almost as broad as he is tall, with fists bigger than his head. This insane physique comes from the Crimson Gem of Cyttorak, which makes him unstoppable (and makes him resemble Cyttorak himself). When he's not using the gem's power to its fullest, his physique remains big, though the proportions are considerably less impressive.
  • Tom Strong has the title character parody both this and Top-Heavy Guy. He's drawn with a physique that is just slightly exaggerated. He's got a huge torso and comparatively skinny legs—not to the point of cartoonishness, but more like he's very slightly deformed. Indeed, it's actually implied he is, being described by multiple characters as looking like an upside down triangle—which just happens to be his Chest Insignia.
  • Marvel Star Wars was all over the place with regards to this trope and Luke Skywalker. Towards the end they usually averted it completely... except in the very last issue, which also inexplicably removed his shirt and gave him a huge gun he did not use once.
  • The Doctor Who Expanded Universe comics apply this to the Eighth Doctor (while he's shaving and wearing his Goofy Print Underwear), even though, thanks to his rather numerous Shirtless Scenes in the film, we know for a fact he's not quite that chiseled and muscular. Kind of trim and athletic, but not a six-pack in sight.
  • Danny from John Byrne's Next Men is this and a bit of an inversion of Top-Heavy Guy. A kid speedster, from the waist up he is toned, but otherwise has the average proportions of a mid-teen. From the waist down, his thighs and calves are massively disproportionally muscular, (To be fair, his universe lacks a handwaved energy source that other speedsters derive their energy from). On average, he seems to have a pro-bodybuilder's legs. Drawn at its most exaggerated, his legs are drawn even bigger, as in; just one leg is wider than an adult's torso, bigger!
  • The short-lived Malibu Comics superhero Prime had an extremely exaggeratedly muscular build—since his appearance was a young boy's idea of what a superhero should look like.
  • Megaton Man was specifically designed to lampoon this trope with everything from his overly muscular physique to a lantern jaw larger than the rest of his head.

    Live Action TV 
  • Spoofed in The Goodies. In "U-Friend of U-Foe", faced by an apparently hostile UFO, Graham declares that they must convince the aliens that humans are a race of supermen! Cue the Goodies ducking into a line of phone booths so they can put on superhero tights. Bill's comes with a padded chest that gives him some difficulty re squeezing out of the booth, but he tries to bulk himself up further with a bike pump. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Likewise in The Kenny Everett Video Show spoof Captain Kremmen, the eponymous space hero has a shirt that inflates into the appropriate muscled build.
  • In Too Many Cooks, Miranda's physique is emphasized fairly strongly when she first poses (in civvies) for the camera.
  • Since its 2000 revival, almost every main Kamen Rider has had a perfectly identical physique once they henshin. The reason: with two exceptionsnote , they've all been played by one man, Seiji Takaiwa, who's often called Mr. Kamen Rider for this reason.

  • Exaggerated and subverted in Data East Pinball's Tales from the Crypt, which shows a bodybuilder with a toned, idealized muscular Heroic Build... and the wrinkling, balding head of an old man.

  • Masters of the Universe introduced a highly exaggerated version of this trope into the action figure market, where every single character had a build like the Incredible Hulk, and it spawned many imitators over the next decade or so.

    Video Games 


    Web Original 
  • This was parodied in a Homestar Runner cartoon; Strong Bad discusses a hypothetical Strong Bad action figure, which looks remarkably like this. Strong Bad lampshades it by claiming it would look "just like him," specifically mentioning the relative sizes of his head and body. In an Easter Egg, Homestar, Strong Mad, Strong Sad, and Pom Pom get the same treatment; the action figures' physiques are Liefeldishly overmuscled, even Pom Pom and Strong Sad, who are literally spherical.
  • This trope being associated with WWE wrestlers is parodied in Hogan Vs Flair by the created wrestler TF British and his ludicriously muscular self.
  • Gully of Worm has massively over-developed musculature to the point of nearly being hunchbacked. She's been passed over several times for promotion by the Protectorate because of her appearance and is understandably bitter about the whole situation.
  • In Dragon Ball Abridged, Tien's shoulders can vary by the shot (per the source material), but the way they get, Chiatzou expresses worry about training them up any further and Tien grouches that that warning is "why we don't see that doctor" anymore.

    Western Animation 
  • On Max Steel, Steel becomes obsessed with comic books and alter the suit. One of the changes he makes is giving Max 20 abs. This is promptly mocked by everyone else.

  • Bodybuilder physiques on action figures was a general trend in the 90's. While it (somewhat) made sense for characters like He-Man who's so muscled he shouldn't be able to move, it looked downright weird for, say, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo.
    • And of course being surrounded by these physiques leads to body dysmorphic disorder, which ultimately leads to obsessive exercising, use of steroids, etc. And you thought only girls had it tough. Not so in The '90s!
  • Many children's Halloween costumes have exaggerated chest and arm muscles, even if the character they are dressing up as is not so buff. The most obvious example is probably Spider-Man, who is toned but slim in most incarnations, but the costumes look like bodybuilders.
  • In an appearance on The Tonight Show, Jeff Goldblum brought on his action figures from Jurassic Park and Independence Day, to show "how much he bulked up between the two movies".
  • On The Red Green Show, Ranger Gord, who is slender and lanky, has a cartoon segment in which he is portrayed as having an astoundingly muscular physique, so much so that when he bends an arm or even a finger, there is a metallic squeaking sound.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Super Physique


Dragon Ball Z Abridged - Tien

Tien shows up to train with Chiatzou.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

Main / HeroicBuild

Media sources:

Main / HeroicBuild