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Muscles Are Meaningful

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And what they mean is ass-kicking.

UGO report: Then, Tatsu allegedly stomped across the kitchen and proceeded to open up a can on Sheamus, with some reports even characterizing the beating as bad enough to elicit tears from the future WWE Champion.
Drake Oz: Let this be a lesson to you, folks: Size doesn't matter... unless you want to get pushed in the WWE.

In works of fiction, it is generally assumed that characters with big muscles must be strong. In most media, this compels creators to depict strong characters as with hulking muscular builds, often disregarding what kind of build people in any given activity would be likely to have, for fear not doing so would risk forcing the audience out of the story.

This frequently carries the opposite meaning too: small characters are usually elusive, quiet, agile, stealthy, and quick, while large characters being such will not be believable.

In Professional Wrestling, this is taken to extremes. Few fans will accept a smaller or average sized wrestler as a main event contender without years of development, whereas larger wrestlers may be advanced to the main event scene almost immediately after debuting. Fans and promoters alike also tend to gravitate toward men with large biceps and pectorals over triceps and the core body because the former look better on camera, even though the latter are more useful for wrestling.

It should go without saying that this is Truth in Television. Combat sports have strict weight classes for a very good reason, after all. Even ten pounds of muscle is considered a huge advantage.

Related to Bishounen Line. Polar opposite of Muscles Are Meaningless. The Giant will always be portrayed this way, even if they're mostly fat.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In All Rounder Meguru not only muscle mass is important for a MMA practitioner, giving them more strength to execute their techniques (indeed, Meguru becoming strong enough to enter the All Japan Amateur Shooto Championship was accompained by him training and slowly bulking up, as shown by confronting his build in his first fight to the one he sported at the Championship), but the form is important. The one example given is that of Keiji Mitsuya, an otherwise formidable fighter having recently passed from freestyle wrestling (for which he was training for the Olympic games before his temper got him kicked out) to shooto and still having the deltoids of a wrestler, that are overdeveloped in MMA and thus slow him down. Also, shooto has weight categories, and bulking up too much can prevent a fighter from passing the weigh-in (how Meguru got in the Kanto tournament: he had been admitted as a reserve, and entered the tournament when one of the athletes in his weight class admitted from the start failed the weigh-in due being too muscular).
  • Kasumi Gyoubu from Basilisk is by far the most muscular character in the series, and he can breaking necks with his bare hands... and we're not talking about the basic neck twist, but a one hand grab n' crush!
  • Biscuit Oliva from Baki the Grappler is a mountain of muscle with arms bigger than his head and a neck wider than his ears. He's the second strongest person on Earth (at least at first), uses a supermax prison as a private suite, and can block shotgun blasts and sword strikes with ease using nothing more than his sculpted physique. Gets downplayed later on, when Baki (a kid barely a third of his size) overpowers him in an unarmed brawl.
  • Asta from Black Clover. Initially depicted as somewhat short and scrawny looking, it turns out that he actually has massive biceps for a kid his age. He also can rather casually knock a grown man ten or twenty feet into the air and leave a crater in a solid stone wall with a single swing of his sword. Ironically, despite the fact that the Magic Knights are all taller and higher ranked than Asta, almost none of them seem as though they could take him down physically.
  • In Berserk, you can have a reasonable idea of where characters sit on the strength scale by their bulk, with Pippin at one end and Casca on the other. Guts, being a Lightning Bruiser, is very tall and muscular, but is still smaller and faster than many of the other characters. Although said other characters are (usually) actual DEMONS...
  • In Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, physical prowess is taken very seriously among the demon slayers in the setting, individuals with bigger musculature and body mass are seen as the strongest, save one special female with an extremely rare body condition that allows her to be strong with a slender body; the male protagonists: Tanjiro, Zenitsu, and Inosuke get visibly more well defined and bigger muscles as the series progresses, seen through the several training regimes they go under.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Zigzagged with Nappa in Dragon Ball Z. He's big and buff, and easily wipes the floor with most of the Z-Fighters... but at the same time, Goku and Vegeta, both of whom are considerably smaller, both manage to beat him, though neither do so effortlessly: Goku had to resort to using a recently gained power-up to defeat him, and struggled fighting him beforehand, whereas Vegeta took advantage of his weakened state by killing him.
    • The same thing happens in the next saga with Recoome, who dominates Vegeta, Krillin, and Gohan effortlessly then gets KO'd be a single elbow from Goku.
    • Before Nappa, there was Raditz, Goku's older brother. He was taller and more muscular than Goku and easily stronger than him.
    • Kale, from Dragon Ball Super, is a straight example. Her Super Saiyan Berserker form is bulkier and taller than most of her fellow Universe 6 Saiyan (including her normal form), and easily steamrolls Cabba.note 
    • Super Saiyan 2 makes the user slightly bulkier than in normal state-and 100x stronger than base form (or about twice a normal Super Saiyan).
    • Power Weighed forms increase muscle mass with an increase in power. They're rarely used due increasing the stamina consumption and, if bulked up too much heavily slows down the user, keeping them from actually hitting the enemy.
    • Played straightest with the World's Strongest Man Broly, much like Kale his muscle mass is an indicator for power but unlike Kale whose base form is petite, Broly's base form is more muscly than Goku and Vegeta combined and he can even overwhelm them in their Physical God transformations without even going Super Saiyan himself, though he is forced to tap into a "wrathful" state, a power up Goku and Vegeta don't have access to. When he does go Super Saiayn on top of "wrath mode Broly hulks out even more and nearly destroys the whole planet forcing Goku and Vegeta to fuse into Gogeta to actually defeat him. To balance things out Broly is Unskilled, but Strong.
    • Super introduced Jiren an alien with a Heroic Build who is stronger than even the God of Destruction. He is one of the most muscular characters in the franchise. The same goes for his teammate Toppo, who goes from large and powerful but with a pronounced gut to a towering mountain of muscle when he powers up to God of Destruction status. He's probably the third strongest combatant in a tournament of the eighty strongest fighters in the multiverse.
    • Of all characters, Mr. Satan is a straight example. A rather muscular man, he may be completely outclassed by anyone who can use ki but still spent his first appearance showing off considerable strength by pulling four buses, ripping three phone books, and then punching through the skin of one of the buses in quick succession. He also won the 24th Tenkaichi Budokai, a martial arts tournament of such high level that in the 22nd edition the guy who had three kickboxing world championship turned out to be the weakest among the eight fighters who reached the finals.
  • In Eyeshield 21, you can basically rate physical strength of a player by seeing their bulk. Their effectiveness, however.... Played straight with Gaou whose muscles and size basically translates to: must bench over 150 kg to have a chance against him.
  • Most martial artists in Fist of the North Star are rather muscular, even ones like Rei who are supposed to look rather feminine. Bigger, often giant-like guys abound among the bad guys, though their strength and power avail them nothing against Kenshiro, who is very capable of making their heads a splode.
  • In Jigoku no Gouka de Yakare Tsuzuketa Shounen, Flare is ripped to kingdom come and is strong enough to beat multiple people senseless with his bare hands even while they're flinging magic at him. After emerging from Hell, his strength is enhanced to the point that a huge sack full of supplies and even a suit of heavy armor feels like a backpack to him. He casually riddles a suit of treasured holy mithril armor from the White Pearl Kingdom full of dents with regular punches.
  • Three Words: Alex Louis Armstrong from Fullmetal Alchemist. Save for the homunculus Sloth (who also fits this trope, being the manga equivalent of a passive Hulk), he's easily the tallest and most muscular "normal" human in the cast. He can take punches from, and lift up the aforementioned homunculus, tank his head getting slammed through concrete, (which for the record, broke the wall!), and dish the punishment right back out.
    • Other examples are Izumi's husband Sig, who's equally sized, only a little portly (basically, Alex looks like a bodybuilder while Sig looks like an Olympic weightlifter), and the Iron Blood Alchemist, Basque Grand.
  • In Gamaran, strong characters do have powerful bodies (such as Shingo Mido), though more emphasis is put on characters knowing both their bodies and how to correctly move and use them. The sequel series Shura has more examples, such as Bihoumaru (so strong and muscled he can kill people by punching them in the head), Burai Udo (enormous and muscular, can crack boulders in half with a bokuto) and, in a rare female example, Homare (member of a special corps of fighters, can swing around a western greatsword effortlessly).
  • Hunter × Hunter regularly has skinny, plot-important characters easily overpower muscular bit players, but among peers the largest ones usually have the most physical strength.
    • The (physically) strongest Phantom Troupe member, Uvogin, is a perfect example of The Brute, being 8 feet 6 inches tall and weighing 416 pounds.
    • One of Gon and Killua's teachers, Biscuit Krueger, is actually a humongous hunk who disguises herself as a little girl because it hides her true strength, and because it's cute. She's actually really strong because she's extremely muscular and just hides that.
  • Before the Art Evolution, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure invoked this greatly. Jonathan, being the physically strongest Joestar, has an incredibly muscular physique similar to Kenshiro's. His grandson Joseph, while not fighting his opponents head-on as much, is just as muscly and still took down all four muscle-bound superhuman Pillarmen mostly by himself. Zig-zagged with Jotaro: he's pretty buff for a 17-year-old, but he's leaner than his grandpa Joseph and is mostly a Squishy Wizard who doesn't rely on his physical strength. His Stand Star Platinum, however, is both musclebound and can crush diamonds with his fists.
  • Played gloriously straight in Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple: while skill matters so does strength, and the near totality of the martial artists are quite muscular. Best shown by Kenichi's progress into martial arts including him bulking up and Hayato Furinji, who has earned such names as "The Invincible Superman", "He who has no Enemies", and "The Strongest Man in the World", being a massive giant over two meters tall and weighing over 100 kilos of muscles.
  • Played completely straight in Kengan Ashura. This is exemplified with Julius Reinhold, "The Most Muscular Man On Earth". A literal walking mass of pure dense musculature, Julius completely blocked Sawada's strongest attack using only his trapezius muscle. In general, though the series shows quite regularly that a sufficiently skilled or lucky little guy can beat a big guy, and being big isn't entirely a bonus, it's still a major advantage that has to be worked around.
  • In My Hero Academia, heroes with Super-Strength tend to be very brawny in order to draw out the most from their Quirks. Even those who don't work out extensively to obtain a Charles Atlas Superpower to compete with those whose Quirks grant them superhuman physical attributes. Midoriya in particular needs to work out a lot and build muscle in order to handle One For All without exploding, compared to the unbelievably tall and brawny All Might who can handle it without issue.
  • Usually the opposite in Naruto but played straight with the very muscular A and Killer B who both respectively demolish the scrawny adolescent Sasuke.
  • One Piece ironically tends to play this trope straight with the weaker characters. If a character is muscular, it is a good sign that he is not entirely without fighting ability, and big, muscular Mooks tend to be somewhat stronger than the small, lean ones. But when it comes to the really badass characters, Muscles Are Meaningless (some are very muscular, some are slightly muscular, some are scrawny).
    • The Noodle People art style really plays with this, Zoro is obviously more muscly than Luffy and Sanji who are quite skinny and one of Zoro's attacks "Two Gorilla" involves making his biceps bigger to increase attack power. However, Luffy and Sanji are actually pretty damn muscular beneath their clothes are capable of great feats of Super-Strength, never mind Luffy's Gear 4. Top-Heavy Guy Franky has more muscle mass than all three of them, yet is considered weaker than the trio and admits it himself in the Thriller Bark anime.
      • Chopper's Heavy Point and Arm Point give him much greater attack power and his Monster Point can level a whole village and almost destroyed the Tower of Justice.
      • Usopp's power increase in the Time Skip was marked by a new muscly physique. He's still the weakest in the crew, however.
    • Emperors Whitebeard and later Kaido are considered the strongest man/beast in the series and they're muscle-bound titans. Played with Big Mom she's just as strong as former two but is an overweight old woman, albeit a giant one.
      • Played straight with Big Mom's second son Katakuri who trounced the much smaller Luffy, who only barely won the fight.
  • In Rebuild World, Akira is noted to be short and scrawny for his age because of how young he is and how little he got to eat before he started making money with Alpha's help. Because of this, he can't comfortably carry and fire more than a single assault rifle at a time without the help of an augmented suit, compared to older, more fit, and more experienced hunters who are armed to the teeth.
  • In 3×3 Eyes, Benares is the strongest opponent in Yakumo's way, and even in his depowered human form he's a giant of a man easily capable of surpassing his younger opponent in strength, at one point even crushing his hand into paste with his grip.
  • In Soul Eater, Crona and Ragnarok get noticeably stronger the bigger Ragnarok gets. In fact, from the time they first appear, Ragnarok's soul is already bigger in perimeter than Crona's height, and by the second battle they have with Maka, Ragnarok's soul is now almost the size of a two story house. When Ragnarok's eaten souls are confiscated (or he had his soul cleansed, as in the anime), he and Crona are about as strong as Maka, showing that their strength has lowered greatly.
  • Female example in Thou Shalt Not Die with Mashiro. While she doesn't look all that impressive normally, during a fight, her muscles will expand significantly thanks to her body enhancement powers making her role as a frontline brawler very clear. In fact, whenever she uses her powers, her skin will temporarily turn transparent allowing for a much clearer view of her muscles swelling and tensing to put further emphasis on this.
  • In Tiger Mask the size of a wrestler's muscles is a good indication of his physical strength. Then again, skills matter too, and physically weaker wrestlers defeat stronger ones just as often as they themselves are defeated by them.
  • In Tokyo Ghoul, the formerly scrawny Kaneki gets a shirtless scene in chapter 88, revealing just how built his training to become stronger so he can protect everyone has made him.
  • In Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead, Akira is still in pretty good shape thanks to his rugby days in college and the occasional Shirtless Scene shows that he still has well-defined arms, pecs, and abs. This proves especially handy when the Zombie Apocalypse hits, as his athleticism lets him shimmy up and down poles, tackle and wrestle zombies, and help with hard labor when needed.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman:
    • Bane, Clayface, Solomon Grundy, and other "melee" villains who were larger than Batman.
    • Batman is an especially obvious example of this trope. In comics where he had to fight, he was drawn larger than average (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns). In comics where he used his detective skills, he was drawn slimmer and less muscular (The Brave and the Bold).
    • In films, Batman traditionally wore a padded Bat-suit, but appeared slim as Bruce Wayne.
  • The Incredible Hulk: This is almost the entire plot for the Hulk, as any character's superpower can be easily identified by which body part is the largest (The Leader, the Abomination, etc.) The Hulk is among the strongest individuals in the Marvel Universe, and is ripped as hell.
  • Spider-Man:
    • The "strong" villains are always large and muscular (e.g. the Rhino) while the villains who have other powers are slimmer (e.g. the Chameleon.)
      • Carnage subverts this trend; he is at least as strong as Venom if not stronger (and thus stronger than Spider-Man) but is actually smaller and less muscular than Peter Parker without his symbiote.
      • Venom himself is an aversion; he's much larger and muscular than Spider-Man, but also somewhat faster, more agile, sneakier due to his use of the symbiote's camouflage, and just about the only Spider-villain who could reliably catch Peter by surprise (being immune to the Spider-Sense helps a lot in that regard). Stealth and psychological intimidation were Venom's favored tactics, even when his size and strength gave him an advantage in fights.
  • Superman: Villains who fought with Superman were drawn larger (e.g. Doomsday, Darkseid, Mongul, Post-Crisis Brainiac, etc.) However, the villains that outsmarted him were drawn smaller, e.g. Mr. Mxyzptlk, Lex Luthor, Pre-Crisis Brainiac, etc.
  • Thanos is stronger and bigger with the build of a giant and is consider the greatest threat in the Marvel universe.
  • Wonder Woman Vol. 2: Bill Baker and the White Magician (in his final form) are drawn as huge men with an impossible level of muscle mass and both shrug off attacks by Artemis, though the fact that they are enhanced magically might have something to do with it. In his final moments the White Magician was so tough that Wonder Woman needed the gauntlets of Atlas in order to put up a decent fight and the only reason it ended without her needing serious medical attention was that his magic turned on him and killed him.

    Fan Works 
  • In Risk IT All, Ren's muscles grow in accordance with his strength stat. His six-month coma caused his strength to dwindle to a mere 2, but putting points in strength helped him stand again in a few days rather than months. Getting his strength to 20 gives him freedom of mobility and a below-average physique, while dumping 30 more points into it causes him to gain twenty pounds of muscle overnight, leaving him looking and feeling better than he had before he was shot. With the help of his powers, he's soon performing complex acrobatics and knocking common crooks to the floor with a single hit.
  • Plenty of Touhou Project fanworks tend to portray Yuugi Hoshiguma as an Amazonian Beauty to emphasize her status as "Yuugi The Stong", the physically strongest of all oni. Given that many fanworks latch on to the theory that Yuugi's suitably vague signature ability, "The Power to Wield Kai-Riki-Ran-Shin" — a nebulous Buddhist concept meaning "Anomalies, Strength, Disorder, and Spirits", a metaphor for "Unexplainable Phenomena" — is an extension of her physical power, the meaningfulness of Yuugi's muscles seems to be that she can accomplish feats of strength that defy explanation... This says quite a lot what with Suika Ibuki, the oni who is second only to Yuugi in strength, once shattering the Moon as if it was made out of glass using nothing but physical strength alone while still standing on the Earth. (Thankfully, Suika is also magically powerful enough that she was able to repair the Moon again by pulling the shards back together.)

    Films — Animation 
  • Luisa in Encanto has Super-Strength as her magical gift, and has a very muscular body as a result. However, her magic means that she is significantly stronger than should be possible, even for someone with her build.

  • The Asterisk War: Lester McPhail is probably the one packing the most muscle when he wears his gray shirt and he shows off the bottom portion of his abs.
  • A Rare Female Example—fourteen-year-old Jedi Padawan Scout, in Dark Rendezvous, is Weak, but Skilled. Lacking a strong connection to the Force, she has been training for years to build muscle, along with developing other skills so that she is not kicked out of the Jedi Temple, and is noted as being physically stronger than the other Jedi apprentices.
  • Thriller author Lee Child has almost always depicted his protagonist, Jack Reacher, as being the biggest man in the book. This is consistent with Reacher's nearly-effortless thrashing of anyone dumb enough to ignore this trope, although some of his combat prowess does come from skill and experience.
  • Feruchemists in Mistborn: The Original Trilogy get bigger muscles when they tap strength, to the point where one protagonist briefly ends up about nine feet tall and built like a bear.
    • While Allomancers do not gain extra muscles to go with their magical Super-Strength, a burly man will still be that much stronger than the skinny girl if both are burning pewter.
  • Ser Gregor "The Mountain that Rides" Clegane is by far the biggest, and most muscular character in A Song of Ice and Fire. He's also the uncontested World's Strongest Man. Generally, the physically strongest characters will also be large, muscular men (Or women, in the case of Brienne).
  • In Protector of the Small, Keladry is already more sturdily built than most girls (leading to the unkind nickname of "Cow" by her Obnoxious In-Laws) but when she goes to train as a knight, she discovers that she really does have ground to make up between herself and the boys strength-wise. So she does extra strength exercises with push-ups, running, and, after discovering that she was given a weighted training lance as a discouraging prank, uses only weighted weapons in drills. Once her page training is done she's built more or less like an oak tree—and at one point she defends herself against the Standard Female Grab Area just by flexing her bicep.
  • The Locked Tomb: Gideon the Ninth: Zig-zagged. The cavaliers, who are the "sword" part of a Sword and Sorcerer duo with necromancers, are in general pretty built, and the younger ones are very impressed with Gideon's biceps. A key plot point is that necromancers can merge with their cavaliers to become the super-powerful Lyctors. This turns out to be the reason rapiers are the traditional cavalier weapon—the cavalier always ends up inside the necromancer, so they need to carry blades the less-fit body can handle. However, when a particularly Jerkass necromancer figures this out and forces a merge, the fact she's tiny and stick-thin means she quickly has to switch to magic when dueling a rival cavalier, because all the skill in the world does not make up for the fact he's about twice her size. However, this seems to be at least partially because her cavalier is actively fighting her. When Gideon willingly sacrifices herself to turn her necromancer Harrow into a Lyctor, they wield Gideon's longsword with only momentary trouble (though Gideon mentions Harrow will have to start lifting weights). In the sequel, this is played straight. Ianthe starts actually building muscle; Harrow doesn't and so has to rely on necromantic life hacks to carry anything that weighs more than a couple pounds.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Both teams and fans of The Amazing Race fully believe this trope, no matter how many times the show subverts it or deconstructs it. At the beginning of each season it's the biggest and strongest teams that are generally the most feared by the other teams, and who are usually picked to win by the fans. Though justified in the first four seasons, where physical strength was only challenged by those with travel knowledge, in later seasons it's much more likely for an "Alpha Male" team to eliminate themselves with a stupid mistake than to dominate a season.
    • Derek & Drew serve as an excellent deconstruction of this concept on the Race during Season 3. On the tails of fit male teams winning the first two seasons, many of the teams became immediately obsessed with beating the "wonder twins", despite Derek & Drew viewing themselves as barely hanging on for the first few legs. At the same time, Ken & Gerard talked about how no one was giving them any thought because of their pudgier physiques, and Teri & Ian were outright disregarded as fodder. While Derek & Drew did end up being formidable opponents, so did Ken & Gerard and Teri & Ian, who both edged out Derek & Drew to make it to the Final 3. The twins lost not because they got beat in some head-to-head competition, but simply because they couldn't find a clue.
    • Season 5 winner Chip was a huge proponent of this trope, especially when writing for the "Return of the Racers" blog for He constantly talked about how "alpha male" teams had a unfair advantage over all other teams, and how he and his wife never would have had a shot against one of these teams (even though they did beat the arguably stronger team of Colin & Christie). When he made a list of the strongest individual racers, the top 11 spots all went to men, with the top female racer being a physical trainer.
  • Survivor has a similar situation. In the early stages when tribes compete for team immunity, women and older players often get targeted due to perceived weakness; and when it shifts to an individual competition then the young fit guys become the targets due to being perceived as threats in immunity challenges. Like in The Amazing Race, physical strength usually doesn't affect challenge success as much as some people think it does, and the social game is more of a factor overall.
    • Survivor: One World has a good example of the perception vs. the reality of this. Matt, an alpha male, picked out some other alpha males to work with and believed they ran the tribe; at one point describing them as "roosters" leading the "chickens" around. Then the tribe actually had to go to Tribal Council; and it was pointed out to him that there were five "chickens" and only four "roosters". Goodbye, Matt.
  • Starting in the Heisei Era with Ultraman Tiga, whenever a warrior from the Ultra Series specializes in techniques of strength, they have more visible muscle mass than other Ultras, although it's a form change.
    • Ultraman Taiga gave us one of the best example of this trope in the form of Ultraman Titas. Known as the Sage of Power, he has the largest muscles of any Ultraman, and he is extremely prone to showing off that they are most decidedly not just for show.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • In Professional Wrestling, "large" wrestlers (275 lbs or more) are usually given squash matches and power finishing moves. Smaller (200 lbs or less) are usually in matches that demonstrate acrobatic or high-flying moves. Some "large" wrestlers such as Hulk Hogan and Mike Awesome were actively discouraged by agents from using more elaborate forms of offense and technique because it was deemed fans would not buy wrestlers their size acting that way. Specifically, ECW personalities such as Joey Styles would often mock Hulk Hogan's lack of finesse, negatively contrasting him to Awesome only to see Awesome suffer the same problem in larger promotions (read, WCW)
  • This does not go back an especially long while on the wrestling time table either. In the late 1880s when it was decided to crown a heavyweight champion for all of America, few had trouble taking Evan Lewis as credible, even though 5'9 180lbs was not especially large even then. Given the timeline, its debatable if all or any of his matches were even staged, which kind of strengthens the point. Before Lewis, an actual small man, the 5'5 140 lbs Joe Acton, was considered national champion material. In fact, mixed martial arts promotions often use the term "catch weight" for fights that violate official weight class restrictions, in reference to the fact there usually were no such thing in the Catch As Catch Can days. Guys like Lewis and Acton often had to beat much larger competitors to get noticed.
  • The first World Heavyweight Champion was the 5'9 230 lbs Estonian George Hackenschmidt, which would still be considered kinda largish but short by today, but he was defeated by (depending on which promotions you find more credible) the the 6'0 200 lbs Ibrahim Hergeleci or the 6'0 200 Frank Gotch. For a while, the world champions were getting smaller (and faster, and increasing in stamina). Ed Lewis may have been the first exceptionally large World Champion at 265 lbs though it wouldn't really be until 1960 that "super heavyweights" became really visible on the world stage.
  • The single largest box office draw every recorded anywhere in professional wrestling, "The Golden Greek" Jim Londos, was only 5'8 200 pounds. Granted, he was pretty muscular for his height. His neck was thick, his legs were tree trunks, his abs were terrifying, but he also had small pectoral muscles that made his head look too large for his body. His impressive musculature only became apparent when his body was in motion, such as stretching out and pinning an opponent, but most of what little footage of him exists was not considered good for television. Luckily for Londos most of his wrestling career was before television became big money.
  • All Japan Pro Wrestling had the reputation for picking the bulkiest, tallest and or heaviest wrestler it could find and then sending him up against the next biggest wrestler it could find, which shouldn't be too surprising when Giant Baba was the standard, with the smaller wrestlers on the roster not getting much of any notice until the success of Tiger Mask and The Great Muta caused them to Follow the Leader. And even then AJPW initially put the mask on the much larger Mitsuharu Misawa when it bought the Tiger Mask gimmick.
  • Since the end of the territorial era, the only women generally allowed to compete against men were the female bodybuilders who were equal to them in size. Chyna is by far the most famous, having won a male singles championship in her career (and was even rumored to be booked to win the company's world championship at one time), but see also: Nicole Bass, Midnight, Asya. During the territory days, smaller woman such as Mildred Burke or Jacqueline would be allowed to face select male opponents as women's champion in order to give a women's division some credibility. Sable did a watered down version of this (power bombing Marc Mero) around the same time as Chyna and actually engaged in a public debate with her, arguing she should be taken as seriously as Chyna despite not being as large.
    • On the indies smaller women can bypass this but they'll normally have to rely on Waif-Fu during matches. Kana seems to be the exception that proves the rule, as she tends to rely on stiff shots and submission holds...and usually ends up beaten after the larger man toughs them out.
  • With the advent of the light heavyweight division of the WCW and WWF during the Monday Night Wars, smaller wrestlers doing power moves became more common, and larger wrestlers doing acrobatic moves like the kip-up were also common.
  • ECW averted this often, and even squeezed in a series of subversions with the "Little Spike Dudley: Giant Killer" gimmick, where the 150-pound-soaking-wet Spike would somehow, after having been beaten half-to-death by men 3 times his size, and with commentator Joey Styles begging for the ref to stop the match, find a way to prevail in the end.
  • Christopher Daniels is a good example. He's usually somewhere between 180 and 200 lbs. Which is easily in the junior/light heavyweight/cruiser weight category but when he bulked up as much he could he weighed in around 232, which is comfortably in the heavyweight range, but was still mostly booked in the junior/light heavyweight/cruiser weight ranks because Daniels will probably never have large pecs and thus never look light a heavyweight.
  • Inverted by Hydra of CHIKARA, who must weigh 150 pounds, but is treated by announcers and other wrestlers as a behemoth.
  • While some suggested Shuhei Taniguchi was spared the Butt-Monkey treatment rookies from Pro Wrestling NOAH usually get for his accomplishments as an amateur wrestler (competing in the All Japan Championships), more cynical critics suggested they named him The Ace of his class because he was a heavyweight.
  • In Professional Wrestling, this is taken to extremes, as few fans will accept a smaller (Rey Mysterio Jr., Eddie Guerrero) or average sized wrestler (Bret Hart, AJ Styles, Shawn Michaels, even "Stone Cold" Steve Austin himself) as a main event contender without years of development. Whereas larger wrestlers (Kane, Brock Lesnar, The Great Khali) may be advanced to the main event scene almost immediately after debuting. This is particularly noticeable in WWE, where 1) the promotion has access to much larger wrestlers than smaller promotions, and 2) the CEO Vince McMahon and WWE Executive Producer Kevin Dunn, don't like smaller wrestlers and are reluctant to push them. Nowhere is this mentality more apparent than in the career of The Giant Paul "The Big Show" Wight, who had his pro wrestling debut (not just his first televised match, but his first match ever) in the main event of a WCW Pay-Per-View for the world championship — and won!
    • Vince McMahon's favor towards big muscle men is connected with his passion for bodybuilding. Not only has he got a bodybuilder's physique himself, but in the nineties he started his own short-lived bodybuilding organization, the World Federation of Bodybuilding. The International Federation of Bodybuilding owned by the Weider Brothers had by that time crushed most of its competition, but Vince thought he could beat them at their own game. First, as his Trojan Horse, he established a magazine called Bodybuilding Lifestyles, and got famous IFBB pro Tom Platz to oversee it. The magazine got a booth at the IFBB Mr. Olympia competition on September 15, 1990; Tom Platz tricked them into letting him make a speech, which he used to announce the creation of the WBF, and the magazine booth handed out press releases (Platz got a lifetime ban for this). McMahon promised higher production values and more pay for the competitors, which was tempting enough to lure away several IFBB pros such as Gary Strydom, Danny Padilla, and Tony Pearson, despite knowing they'd recieve a lifetime ban from the IFBB. Unfortunately, the only shows in 1991 and especially 1992 were kind of a disaster. Vince promised that he wasn't going to try to turn bodybuilding into Pro Wrestling, but in the end he couldn't help giving the bodybuilders wrestling-style personas and skits which a lot of bodybuilding fans thought were corny. He also hired a diet expert for the bodybuilders who prescribed a keto-tyle diet, which worked well for some and terribly others; Mike Quinn appeared on stage in 1992 with visible belly fat and love handles on him. Finally, Vince had the unfortunate timing of starting the WBF in the wake of the Ababolic Steroids Control Act of 1990, which created severe penalties for promoters who provided steroids to their athletes. As a result, Vince required the competitors to be drug tested, which resulted in a general lack of size and conditioning. Gary Strydom, who was Vince's favored star and won both championships, was allegedly exempted from the diet and drug test. The sale of pay-per-views of the 1992 competition was dismal, and Vince was forced to disband the WBF. Despite its failure, it's earned its place in history as the reinforcement of Vince's entire philosophy. In a bit of irony one of the promotions that relies on this trope the least, CMLL, proved more successful at promoting fitness and body building(though they never had aspirations of leading the international field).
    • Other good examples are Sheamus, Wade Barrett, and Alberto Del Rio in decending order. Sheamus first appeared on TV as a (supposed) jobber before plowing through on his way to being a monster heel.
    • In Rey Mysterio's case, even after years of being a fan favorite and firmly establishing himself as a skilled ring worker, his run as World Heavyweight Champion had him always treated the underdog against his larger, more muscular challengers. This booking seems to have been specifically designed to make it harder for fans to take him seriously as champion.
    • This trope appears to be on it's way to becoming discredited in recent years. Smart Mark fans tend to prefer smaller, more athletic wrestlers who perform lots of technical and high-flying moves and will often pre-judge any large wrestler (anyone above 6 ft and weighs more than 230 pounds) as untalented and only being pushed because of Vince McMahon's hard-on for big men. Ever since Triple H gained more control within WWE, they have been pushing more and more smaller wrestlers. CM Punk (6 ft., 218 lbs and not very defined) got his much overdue main event push in 2011. Daniel Bryan (5'8" and 180 pounds) became massively over to the point where WWE had to either give him the World title or endure a fan riot. Seth Rollins (6' and 218 pounds) made a Face–Heel Turn and became WWE's top heel from 2014-2015. The aforementioned AJ Styles made his WWE debut in January 2016. He went straight to the main roster, skipping NXT entirely, his first match was in the Royal Rumble and he was participating in main event feuds with both Roman Reigns and John Cena within 3 months of his debut. Also, Finn Balor (5'11 and 190 pounds) who is the inaugural WWE Universal Champion. This extends to "fat" wrestlers too, who generally do not get any significant pushes unless they are tall in addition to being fat. Kevin Owens, after making his main roster debut, got a clean win over John Cena in his first match, became one of WWE's top upper midcarders, and eventually became a top heel upon winning WWE Raw's Universal Championship. Samoa Joe also got to keep his name, and has been pushed as a total badass in NXT, even getting an NXT championship run. So, in short, while muscle men tend to get the biggest pushes, there is still room for small, average or overweight wrestlers to get their spot on top, even if it's a brief one. WWE also used a much more realistic(in relation to all other sports besides MMA, which betrays its pro wrestling roots with 225 lbs cruiserweight average) 205 lbs for the standard of its revived cruiserweight division, meaning even wrestlers considered "average" in Ring of Honor like Cedric Alexander(smaller than Punk at 209) had to cut weight to qualify.
  • This is also the case in women's wrestling but it did not undergo the same size escalation men's wrestling did in the 1980s. In fact the WWF, largely responsible for the inflating size of male wrestlers (180 lbs to 220 lbs as heavyweight "minimum"), did the opposite with women (where 130 lbs was considered heavyweight minimum), pushing a slew of "short" wrestlers such as Ivory, Jacqueline, Trish Stratus, Molly Holly and Mickie James as serious champions along with "slim" wrestlers such as LayCool and Alicia Fox. If the only wrestling one watched was WWF/E from 1999-2006 then why Melina Perez was declared "too small" when trying to break into the business would be incomprehensible. By the time she made it to WWE everyone was used to seeing "divas" her size. Looking back at headliners of the previous WWF women's division, Madusa, Bull Nakano, Bertha Faye, Luna Vachon, Aja Kong would give one an idea though. Even Lita, Jazz and Victoria would have been in the "small" to "average" range then.
    • "The Glamazon" Beth Phoenix competed in the Royal Rumble, even eliminating The Great Khali. She and Natalya Neidhart also formed a tag team at one time called "The Divas of Doom" whose gimmick focused on being more able ring-workers than the "Barbies" who lacked their musculature. Unfortunately, they were regarded by fans to be the only women in the company who could wrestle. Now the company was relying on a slew of rookies at this point, having lost every woman previously listed except Alicia Fox and Layla but their dismissal (along with Eve Torres and the Bella Twins) by fans illustrates the trope's pervasiveness even after WWE had spent decades defying it. There was backlash against "small" wrestlers after the diva search though and Beth's designated opponent, recent graduate from jobberdome Kelly Kelly, was still not taken seriously by critics-this trope was not the only factor.
    • WWE uncharacteristically played this straight in the early 2010s regarding Jamie Keyes, Kaitlyn and Tamina Snuka. The former was a shredded bodybuilder who just so happened to have no interest in becoming a pro wrestler and simply wanted to be a ring announcer. Keyes ended up asking for her release over the fact WWE kept trying to put her in the ring even though she never found it enjoyable. The "hybrid diva" Kaitlyn did have a desire to wrestle but was put on television with less than two months training. She lasted much longer than Jamie, at least. Tamina had one year's experience on the independent circuit, well ahead of the other two in many respects, but it would still be awhile before she caught up to Beth Phoenix or Natalya, who she was nonetheless immediately pushed as a threat to.
    • Averted in 2013/2014 as A.J. Lee became the longest reigning Divas Champion at the time and was the most popular woman on the roster. She is 5'2 and weighs 99 lbs, 115 at her heaviest. That's less than Hornswoggle!
    • In the late 2010s WWE played it straight again with Nia Jax, who was quickly taken out of their developmental program with even less ring or mic skills than Tamina but pushed even harder than her on account of being even larger than Snuka.
    • Tessa Blanchard was notoriously slim, but bulked up considerably in preparation for winning the Impact Wrestling World Championship belt from Sami Callihan, even though Impact had removed "heavyweight" from the title to ensure Blanchard's victory would be as believable as possible. She was also dominated shorter and or slimmer knockouts to justify her leaving the division while keeping those of similar size or larger away from her.
  • This is less of a thing in Mexico, where a more intricate system of weight classes enforced by the same athletic commission that oversees boxing makes it easier for small even by non athlete standard wrestlers to find work and possibly get themselves over. After the dojos in Japan refused to train Jushin Thunder Liger because of his size, he made his way to Mexico. The crowds tend to have an easier time excepting "small" wrestlers going over "large" foes too, such as the 5'8 Eddie Guerrero and 5'6 El Hijo Del Santo being runaway successes or the 200 lbs Maximo Sexy being CMLL's World Heavyweight Champion when larger men such as Ultimo Guerrero were holding belts with lower maximum limits that the 214 lbs minimum Maximo's belt was supposed to have. It is not completely averted though, as the largest member of Los Gringos Locos, Art Barr, far out shined his contemporaries at first. (Though given the fact they represented foreign vice, that may have been by design.) Also, when CMLL tried to push Rush after he won a body building contest they ended up making him the most hated luchador in the company despite his tecnico status.
  • Women wrestlers also stayed around the same size in Mexico well into the 2000s if the 167cm 77 kg Tsunami, who is much larger than the average woman, claims of being pegged "small" hold any merit, though she's still treated as a power wrestler. As with the men, fans tend to buy the victories of wrestlers even when they're really tiny, 155 cm Princesa Sugeith being one of the most successful rudas of her time.
  • NYX was trained in PWX to be a mysterious, confounding technical wrestler, but since she was 6'5 260 lbs, every promotion invariably booked her as The Giant with a very simplistic approach to wrestling who spent as little time close to the mat as possible if her opponent was a woman. Occasionally NYX would get to wrestle the way she was trained against a man of comparable size, but most of the time if she was booked with a man it would be as the bodyguard or dominatrix to a tiny man. She would sometimes "sneak" technical spots into her matches if she felt it could be justified though, and gradually became known for a flashy stunner when working face.
  • While American wrestling has the reputation for jacking up its rosters, the NWA wrestlers have mostly remained around the same sizes across the board from the 1940s to 2010s. This is of course because WCW and the WWF became the trend setters while the NWA was reduced to a niche market. Conversely, when All Elite Wrestling started up with a locker room full of legitimate cruiser weights in 2019, the NWA could finally boast about having larger men on its roster than one of the major US companies.
  • This has been the source of most criticism directed at Brian Cage. Early on in his career, Cage was a middle weight at best wrestler. While some considered him a Spot Monkey even then, it was mostly tolerated on account of him being new and his moves being believable for a smaller man. Over the years, however, Brian Cage has bulked up considerably, which got him the attention of Lucha Underground, Impact Wrestling and All Elite Wrestling, but aside from being able to use his power moves on a larger variety of opponents his wrestling style didn't really change with his bulk. He still does a fair bit of fancy high flying things, including stealing Adam Page's buckshot lariat, which looks a lot less impressive on Page after seeing the 300 pound Cage do it.

  • The rise of mixed martial arts, whose promotions tend have weight classes based more on pro wrestling than boxing due to the earliest company's being born directly from pro wrestling, has only reinforced how small minded the obsession with heavyweights really is. There have been some heavyweight and super heavyweight attractions, the bewildering success of Bob Sapp in Pride Fighting Championships being the most obvious case, just as many of the biggest money makers in MMA have been light heavyweights, middle weights, welterweights, bantamweights and even featherweights. Conor McGregor, the first UFC fighter to hold two belts at once, did so as a lightweight and featherweight and was the single best draw of 2016 in any combat sport. In 2017 his fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. was responsible for the second highest pay per view buy rate of all time surpassed only by Mayweather's fight with Manny Pacquiao for their welterweight title belts.

    Video Games 
  • EXTRAPOWER: In this World of Badass, no character has purely cosmetic muscles. Buff heroes like Sharkungo, Forcestar or Wolf are powerhouses of physical fitness. Zophy is perhaps the most powerfully built human in terms of muscle mass, and that grants him the power to punch through solid boulders or fling humans or even elephants with ease. While other teammates in Attack of Darkforce make do with weaponry, alien powers, magic, or whatever else, a solid punch from Zophy gets the job done just as well or even better.
  • The constitution system in the Fire Emblem series, especially Fire Emblem: Thracia 776. The constitution system is how much your character weighs and can pick up another unit (either by force on enemy units, or slinging allied units over your shoulder). Basically the only characters who have high constitution stats and growth are really muscular guys, big armored men, and mounted units. Skinny wiry Bishonens and especially thin girls will basically never get a point in constitution when leveling up unless the player is really lucky. Even Marty, a muscular brigand who is virtually useless in everything can make use of his muscles with an extremely high base constitution stat and constitution growth.
  • Resident Evil:
    • From 5 onward, Chris Redfield has bulked up considerably and it shows. He can send enemies flying with one punch, and lift up and bodily throw them with ease. Also, during his brief face-off with Leon Kennedy in 6, it's clear that he has the advantage in terms of physical strength.
    • Also applies to Helena in 6: as of that game she is the most muscular female character in the franchise, and her melee attacks are primarily focused on punching and lifting her enemies, as opposed to almost all the other Resident Evil ladies who rely on kicks.
  • This has little to do with offense, but in the BlazBlue series, muscles do a pretty good job of hinting at a character's defensive potential. Tager is built like a brick shithouse, and he has the highest HP and defensive ability in the game. Azrael is another beefcake who can take plenty of punishment, and even Bang with his manly muscles is in fourth for highest HP capacity. The oddity amongst this group is Hakumen, who ties with Azrael. This also extends to BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle, where the well-muscled Waldstein has the same HP as Tager himself.
  • Fable: Investing points in Strength leads to your character getting more and more visibly muscular.
  • Wario possesses very impressive biceps, and he's one of the most powerful characters in the series.
  • Ganondorf from The Legend of Zelda is a huge, hulking, muscular man and one of the strongest characters in the series, but is also a bit on the slow side. Super Smash Bros. exaggerates this by making him a Mighty Glacier played completely straight. Fittingly, he does possess the Triforce of Power.
  • Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep: Terra is the buffest character out of the trio of himself, Ventus, and Aqua; fittingly, in-game, he's the most powerful in terms of damage-dealing.
  • Zangief of Street Fighter fame is probably the Trope Codifier in tournament fighter video games, looming over his fellow cast members with muscles bulging everywhere and slow but powerful attacks. He can canonically break a katana with his pecs.
  • Hitman: Absolution: Sanchez is a defective super soldier experiment after the treatment gave him gigantism, he can't blend in the crowd and is easy target in a gunfight but the muscles he gained alone is enough to make him a great bodyguard and is one of the few who take down agent 47.
  • Shows up in the WWE games, character's less than a heavyweight can never have the highest levels of strength (a strength of 10). Additionally in some versions, a character who's weight-class is two ranks heavier than an opponent's cannot be power-lifted by them (except by taking advantage of certain bugs). This makes Andre the Giant (who's got the unique Ultra-heavy weight class) almost unstoppable in a royal rumble, as heavyweight characters can't lift him.
  • In A Hat in Time, before getting her umbrella, the attack button makes Hat Kid try to punch enemies. Hat Kid is a child; the Mafia populating the first stage are Top Heavy Guys with fists as big as Hat Kid herself and no qualms about using them. Trying to take them on with you bare fists is a bad idea.
  • The final Shadow boss of Persona 5 doesn't take the form of a monster like the others, but is instead a very muscular man. Futuba even warns that those muscles ain't for show and as one of the last bosses in the game, he earns his spot.
  • Fighting Force Has Ben "Smasher" Jackson who looks strong and IS strong. His attacks do the most damage out of the 4 characters.
  • Day of the Tentacle: Bernard is a nerd with scrawny arms, and he isn't able to pick up and store the bowling ball in Green Tentacle's room. When he gets fused with Hoagie and Laverne at the end of the game, Hoagie (who has arms nearly as thick as Bernard's and Laverne's torsos) is strong enough to pick up the ball with ease.

    Web Animation 
  • DSBT InsaniT: Andy and Dave get them as part of the Art Evolution in episode 7. Andy's battle against brainwashed Bill and Martha shows he can put them to good use, and Dave has been shown plenty of times beforehand to be quite the brute.

  • In El Goonish Shive, the O.P. Aludrakrala card is depicted as a monster with huge muscles to reflect its overpoweredness.
  • Ennui GO!: Darcy is the biggest and most muscular member of the main cast and has the strength to match. Because of it, she's often a big help for Izzy and co. whenever trouble happens.
  • Manly Guys Doing Manly Things. Of the main characters, Commander Badass is obviously the strongest and has the largest muscles. (Unless you count Jared's Gyarados.) However, the weakest of them, Jared, has no muscles at all. Much to his dismay.
  • Oni GF: Kirika, the titular Oni girlfriend, is an incredibly muscular Amazonian Beauty and is every bit as strong as she looks. She's done things like shattering a brick wall and launching an obnoxious orc bigger than her into the stratosphere with one punch each, and she works part time at a construction company where her dwarven bosses praise her for "[doing] the work of a hundred dwarves".
  • In Satin Steele, Janet's a professional bodybuilder, and her strength is depicted to come from her physique, contrary to how bodybuilders may not be very strong in Real Life (see the analysis here).
  • In Survival Storyofa Sword Kingina Fantasy World, Protagonist Ryu Han-Bin is amazingly ripped from surviving his non-stop days of battling Hellhounds in the Tutorial, and in fact, his muscles are actually the best indicator of his true strength, give his faulty guideline and level. This comes in handy when Hanbin builds himself up under the false identity of a Valarian warrior, a race of people known of considering their bodies sacred, and universally considered to be barbarian warriors in the same vein as Conan the barbarian. With his existing appearance, Harbin already resembles the popular image of them enough that all it takes is a tan and for him to start walking around shirtless to complete the look.

    Western Animation 
  • ReBoot: After the Time Skip in Season 3, the now-adult Enzo Matrix is big and buff, and it shows when he can take on the super-strong Megabyte in a straight-up fight, and win.
  • Played straight in the first two seasons (before Villain Decay set in) of The Batman. Characters skinnier than Batman (Riddler, Firefly) would go down easily in a fight, characters about his size (Joker, unpowered Bane) were about as skilled as him and could hold their own for a while, and characters bigger than him (Killer Croc, Punch and Judy, powered Bane) could outfight him and had to be outwitted. The only exceptions were Penguin and Catwoman.
  • The Dragon Prince: When the Sky mage Ibis is introduced, his body is revealed to be a knot of muscle. Rather unusual for mages, but unlike magic-users of other Primal Sources, Sky mages like Ibis can transform their arms into wings, which likely takes quite a bit of strength and stamina to use.
  • Zig-zagged in Teen Titans (2003). Cyborg is much stronger than Raven, Beast Boy or Robin, and he looks absolutely hulking next to the rest of the Titans. He's, at least physically, the second strongest titan. The first however, is Starfire, who while clearly fit, definitely doesn't look the part and is quite lithe. Despite that, by all showings it's abundant clear that were they to fight physically, Starfire would stomp him.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Prejudiced For Pecs


Super Martin

Martin wakes up as a muscular caped superhero with the powers of flight and super-strength and his initial on the front of his red, yellow, and blue costume.

How well does it match the trope?

4.83 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / SupermanSubstitute

Media sources: