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Stronger Than They Look

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So you meet this character. He looks weak somehow. He's either small and scrawny, or meek, peace-loving and/or gentle, not heavily armed, lazy or untrained, frail and/or sickly, or unassuming. Either way, everything that you see about him doesn't strike you as "strong".

But then, said so-called "weak" guy starts lifting something many times his size/weight or breaking something hard without much effort.

This "character" may sometimes not be a person; an animal can be this too. Good chance of being in a Mugging the Monster scenario.

Related to Hidden Badass. See also Badass Bookwormnote , Pintsized Powerhouse, Strong Ants, Killer Rabbit, Cute Bruiser and Glacier Waif for the subtropes of this. (Note, examples that fit in the subtropes would be listed there rather than here.)

Compare Badass on Paper, Muscles Are Meaningless and Lightning Bruiser. Contrast Muscles Are Meaningful.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The whole premise of One-Punch Man is how the protagonist Saitama, a skinny, plain-faced, bald man in a lame costume, can kill anything with one punch. In-Universe almost everyone thinks Saitama is a weak pretender, and the Hero Association ranks him as a B-Cass hero; only a handful of people learn of Saitama's true, unimaginable strength, often just before they are one-punched into bloody smithereens.
    • Inverted with King, Saitama's counterpart who looks very threatening, and is intimidating enough to make a villain melt with pure fear. However, King himself is a complete Non-Action Guy who became an S-Class hero thanks to taking credit for Saitama's victories. When not "in character", King is a wussy nerd.
  • Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba:
    • Gyutaro had a very scrawny body when he was human, yet he apparently was very strong; he himself seems surprised by this fact. Once Gyutaro became proficient with a sickle he played with by himself, he could overpower men bigger than him to collect debts; as a demon Gyutaro got big muscular arms but his torso remained extremely thin.
    • In terms of build, Mitsuri looks to be about on par with Shinobu, who describes herself as the physically weakest Hashira. However, she has a unique muscle composition that results in her being eight times stronger than what said build would suggest, being capable of lifting a pickling stone with ease when she was a toddler and an image ranking the Hashira by who would win in an arm wrestling contest has her as interchangeable with Sanemi, Giyuu, and Rengoku. She was also strong enough to effortlessly rip one of Muzan’s arms off with her bare hands during the final battle.
  • Dragon Ball Every Saiyan and half-Saiyan as a child, as well as characters like smaller characters like Krillin pack a massive amount of strength and power. Until he was a late teen Goku, for example, was a short messy-haired kid with a tail who in his first appearance lifted a car. Which itself is nothing compared to the amount of times he effortlessly defeats much larger opponents in tournaments or battles many of whom such as Pamput severely underestimated him due to his stature and age. In spite of his deceiving size, Goku as a preteen and young teen defeated the entire Red Ribbon Army by himself, almost won two world tournaments and killed the infamous King Piccolo whom not even Roshi could defeat.
    • His and Vegeta's sons make his application of this trope look like nothing. Gohan his first son at first glance appears to be nothing but a normal gentle, cheerful, peaceful young boy with none of his father's strength or ferocity until you get him angry by threatening those he loves. At four he was strong enough through pure rage to wound Raditz, a feat Goku and Piccolo the strongest fighters on Earth had to team up to do. At only age 11 Gohan had grown so powerful he had completely surpassed Goku who in turn placed all his hopes in Gohan to defeat Cell. Like before, at first Gohan acts meek and holds back confounded by having to fight, but after Cell's cruelty awakened his inner rage and strength in the form of Super Saiyan 2 Gohan near sadistically, brutally and easily overwhelmed Cell who Goku had no chance of beating and eventually defeated him.
    • Much like Gohan, Goten and Trunks are prodigies at a young age. Achieving the once only mythical Super Saiyan state at ages 7 and 8 respectively and were stronger than Frieza. Again, in spite of being cheerful, playful kids who were prone to bouts of immaturity.
    • This trope is hilariously showcased as well in the world tournament during the Buu Saga. Krillin's first opponent is a much larger fighter who relentlessly mocks his size and strength even saying he'd get the first shot. Seconds later he regretted this decision when Krillin with a bored facial expression immediately rendered him unconscious.
  • Fairy Tail:
    • Natsu. He's agile, strong, practically Made of Iron, and uses a very rare and powerful type of Fire Magic taught to him by a Dragon. Fellow Dragon Slayer Gajeel also qualifies, and he's literally Made of Iron at times, being the Iron Dragon Slayer.
    • Both Dragon Slayers are particularly notable for being extremely powerful with or without magic, as almost all other magic users are physically weak, and almost all other fighter types can't use magic. Some exceptions would be Erza, Mirajane, the artificial dragon slayers and Zero of Oración Seis.
  • Eclair from Kiddy Grade, who can take and defeat guard robots and combat cyborgs twice her size. Fittingly enough her name means "lightning bolt" in French.
  • One Piece:
    • Luffy certainly doesn't look like he is very strong and resilient. Thinking that has been the mistake of almost every Big Bad of the series. Mooks to this day still mock Luffy for being a shrimp even after he's stood up to Kaido whose the World's Strongest Man.
    • Sanji as well. Lean and swift on his feet... with enough leg-power to casually kick aside massive beasts, giants, and buildings. Though Sanji is actually more buff underneath his Clark Kent Outfit.
    • Zoro, too. He looks only slightly more buff than Sanji. He overpowered muscle-bound Miss Monday. Twice, he shoved huge hunks of debris off of himself. And he routinely practices his sword swings using huge barbells about as big as himself.
      • There's a good reason all three, in spite of appearances are known collectively as the Monster Trio.
  • Rurouni Kenshin:
    • Sanosuke. Though, his speed has generally been downplayed due to it being a specialty of the main character. From the beginning of the manga, he's been noted to be very quick, even with a massive zanbatou. After abandoning that weapon, he's been able to trade blows with fellow Lightning Bruiser Anji and block gunfire with a well timed Futae no Kiwami.
    • Kenshin himself is every bit the hard-hitting speedster. While he's taken to striking with the blunt edge of his blade, he still manages to cause knockouts and broken bones. He's also managed to keep fighting despite suffering grave injuries.
  • Gatomon from Digimon Adventure may be tiny and cute, as well as fast as one would expect. But she's actually a Champion Digimon and extremely strong.
  • Bleach:
    • Soifon is the main example of the series. She's a tiny woman but is one of the fastest captains in the Gotei 13. Her attacks are based on her exceptional speed and use it to full advantage. On top of that, however, the Official Bootleg confirms that her strongest ability is actually her physical strength rather than her speed. As a result, she's the unarmed combat expert of the captains, something that allows her to use her two strongest abilities together and to their maximum potential. In the manga, her great physical strength manifests in bankai form. As a nuke.
    • Yoruichi is Soifon's mentor and idol. Soifon has spent a century try to surpass Yoruichi in both speed and strength but hasn't made it yet. Yoruichi's reliance on her strength and speed together is so great that, unlike even Soifon, she doesn't even bother to use her zanpakutou in battle.
  • Naruto: Many of the top tier Naruto shinobi move insanely fast & yet can hit deceptively strong. Some prominent examples would be Minato, Maito Gai, Rock Lee etc.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist's King Bradley is a lean old man who moves with Olympic athlete level speed, evades bullets with ease, and hits hard enough to completely dismember a person in seconds.
  • Rumiko Takahashi's Ranma ½
    • Ranma himself, since he is capable of throwing hundreds of punches in the space of a second, and each one of those punches is likely capable of shattering multi-ton boulders. Ranma seems to have an average teenager build, and can even turn into a girl, yet "her" strength remains unchanged.
    • "Lost Boy" Hibiki Ryoga carries an umbrella with him that he uses as a truncheon, a javelin or as cutting disc. A minor character once tried to lift it, but failed despite using both hands. Ryoga, however, retrieves it with one hand effortlessly, though he looks like an otherwise normal boy his age.
  • Masataka Takayanagi from Tenjou Tenge, it looks like an average student and the weaker brother compared with Mitsuomi, but results he's a powerful fighter that represents the Natsumi Dojo being Maya's best student, also has a hidden power when he gets mad. When he tried to take the school, Soichiro Nagi taste of first hand the (hidden) power of Masataka, being defeated by him and later joining to Maya's side to get stronger and defeat all the ones stronger than him, Masataka included.
  • Durarara!!: Shizuo Heiwajima looks like a pretty ordinary guy, albeit dressed up like a bartender. However, people quickly learn not to cross him because this guy routinely rips vending machines out of the concrete and heaves them at people he doesn't like. He can literally leave people Punched Across the Room.
  • Inuyasha has the titular hero, who does not look very muscular, but he is one of the strongest characters in the anime. This is generally true for a lot of hanyou, as well as youkai that can shapeshift into human-looking forms.
  • Blend-S:
    • Hideri is a very convincing male-to-female transvestite and is considered short for a girl his age. Yet he has caught a falling Akizuki and later pushes Dino with enough strength to make him fall towards the wall: this despite those two are adults of at least normal build. Justified as his family runs a farm, so he's used to physical labor.
  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War: Despite Kaguya's delicate-looking body (not to mention the fact that she's at risk for heart disease), her years of practicing archery have resulted in her having a great deal of arm strength. Ishigami wasn't able to so much as make her budge when they arm wrestled in chapter 117 and her adult older brother Unyo was sent tumbling to the ground with a single punch in chapter 185.
  • In Sailor Moon, all the Sailor Soldiers have Super-Strength, and even in civilian form are superior to normal humans, but Minako shows it the best, being rather short and known to effortlessly beat up three or four people larger than she is before getting any power (said people were her male classmates, and were terrified when they realized what she was about to do).
  • A Certain Magical Index: Touma Kamijou may look like a scrawny teenager, but he is shown to have punched people across varying distances, with varying degrees of power, and once used his unnatural strength to knock away a large metal cross that looked like it would've weighed several tons. Using his completely normal human left hand.
  • Nadeshiko in Laid-Back Camp looks like a normal high-school girl, yet having the highest muscle strength of the entire cast. For example, during the fourth episode, Chiaki and Aoi are surprised of her running around with the camping supplies when the two are starting to get exhausted. The two even discuss having her carry their gear for them. The internal justification is also the reason why she is Formerly Fat—lots of exercise.
  • Musuko ga Kawaikute Shikataganai Mazoku no Hahaoya:
    • Played for Laughs when Minami tries to carry Gospel and nearly drops him because of how heavy he is. Being an infant demon, and having scaly wings at his waist and a tail because of that, Gospel weighs in at nearly 40 pounds. Chiharu, on the other hand, has no problem holding Gospel as if he weighed no more then any other baby.
    • Garon mentions Lizette possesses incredible physical strength for a child demon. When she was five years old, she was able to easily break through metal bars intended to contain her.

    Comic Books 
  • The Flash, whenever the writers don't forget how much it sucks to be punched by someone going that fast. This has varied over the years, and still varies with the writer. In Wally West's first hundred issues or so, he could usually hit no harder than a typical athlete — his aura absorbed most of the energy. As the editor pointed out, Wally would break his hands with every punch otherwise. When the Speed Force was introduced, it quickly became a catch-all answer to physics gripes; thus Wally's been delivering super-punches again, apparently using the Speed Force to sneak around Newton's third.
  • Spider-Man has enhanced strength, reflexes, and agility. Despite that, as Peter Parker he's has been known as "Puny Parker" and treated as a skinny nerd. Most villains and even some heroes write off Spidey as a lightweight to their cost. During Secret Wars (1984) Spider-Man at one point dropped Bulldozer of the Wrecking Crew with a single punch right in front of the Absorbing Man (whose thought bubble acknowledges the "squirt" is trouble) who quickly absorbs some alien steel before he even tries fighting Spidey.
  • The Mighty Thor: The Enchantress is, to all appearances, simply a tall, impossibly-attractive woman, usually wearing either expensive, designer outfits in the style of Midgard, or ornate and revealing costumes suitable for the most decadent assemblage of courtly nobility. In neither case is she carrying any sort of weapon, and her bearing is one of elegantly-graceful poise and sensuality, not anything that implies physical danger or even dangerous athleticism. However, she is Asgardian, which means the tall slim woman you and your mugger friends just cornered on that darkened street is significantly stronger than Spider-Man, and has the speed and endurance to chase you down and destroy you with her bare hands, all without even bothering to use her immense array of magical abilities (and also while wearing 6-inch stiletto heels)
  • Nth Man: The Ultimate Ninja has been trained as a ninja for most of his life and the deadliest killer on Earth. Though strong, he usually relies on his speed, agility, and expertise to defeat his enemies, preferring more subtle methods.
  • Asterix:
    • Asterix, a small man who nevertheless is superstrong after having drunk the magic potion.
    • While Obelix is a very large man, he's also very fat and not noticeably muscled. However, he's permanently superstrong due to falling into the cauldron of potion when he was a baby.
  • Early issues of Marvel Comics' Fantastic Four have Susan Richards as the Invisible Girl, routinely hiding from adversaries and shielding the team when necessary. During John Byrne's run on the series, Susan Took a Level in Badass, and was able to demolish as many Doombots as Ben Grimm. In fact, while she'd been Brainwashed and Crazy by the Hatemonger, she nearly wiped the pavement with her three teammates.
    • In recent years, villains who know them are wary of Reed's intellect, Johnny's fire abilities, and Ben's strength and physical toughness. They are utterly terrified of Susan.
  • The eponymous lead of Jessica Jones is a short, slender woman, absolutely unimposing and unintimidating, and capable of throwing grown men twice her size across the room with one arm.
  • X-Men:
    • Wolverine isn't exactly scrawny, however, this trope still comes into effect because of his Healing Factor. One side effect is that it increases the density of both his muscles and bones, allowing them to exert more force than would be possible for an ordinary human being without tearing them off their ligaments, breaking their own bones, or liquefying their muscles from over-exertion. His unbreakable adamantium skeleton removes one of the key limits to the amount of muscle power a normal human can exert.
    • X-23 for much the same reasons, though not to the same extent since her bones aren't bonded. However, in her case, it's much more exaggerated since rather than a short but heavily-muscled man, she's a short, slight, pretty teenage girl.
    • Nightcrawler is skinny as Spider-Man, yet he can lift an entire woman above his head one-handed and has even given Sabretooth a run for his money in a close-quarters fight.
    • Storm is a willowy African woman, who can pull Stonewall (who apparently weighs over a ton) one-handed out of a swamp, even he couldn't believe it.
    • The first guardian of the M'kraan Crystal seen during the original Phoenix saga in the X-men looks like a small and fairly weak dwarf, Wolverine quickly learns otherwise after mocking him as with one punch he sent Wolverine into space at escape velocity.
    • Rogue is a slim lady, most X-Men tower over her and Rogue's love interest (now husband) Gambit is much more muscly than her. Of course, Rogue is actually far stronger than him and most X-Men to boot being a Flying Brick able to go toe to toe with the freaking Juggernaut.
  • Judge Dredd: Judge Death is an armored skeletal Judge who weighs a mere 67 kilos, but is strong enough to throw boulders into the air.

    Fan Works 
  • In Not Old, Alone or Done For, Wendy is surprised by Peter's strength. He's only twelve but she can't get out of his grasp even as an adult.
  • In War of Remnant: A RWBY Anthology, Gianduja is much more explicitly heavy than in canon, with even the massive Yatsuhashi being unable to lift it. Naturally, this being Coco’s weapon, she regularly uses it with no problem. Also, due to her ability to copy weapons, Velvet can lift it as well.
  • In The Wizard in the Shadows, Harry moves very fast and happens to be a Person of Mass Destruction as well as doubling as Flying Firepower. Also, Aragorn, from the more mortal side of things.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Emperor's New Groove: Big Bad Yzma is hilariously fit for her age (which may lead viewers to question why she needs Kronk in the first place): among her many feats, she can lift hammers the size of her head, run fast enough to outrun a swarm of bees (possibly because of Rule of Funny), bend a fork with her thumb and even wrestle with Pacha despite being a fifth of his girth.
  • The first indication that Hercules is abnormally strong comes while Hercules is a mere baby, and his proud parents are showing him off to the other gods on Olympus. Father Zeus strokes the infant with one finger and suddenly finds himself lifted overhead by his newborn son. "Ooh, and he's strong, like his Dad."
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Disney): Frollo is a decrepit-looking judge who is at least fifty years old, but he moves and hits like a man half that, turning him into a real threat against both Esmeralda and Quasimodo.
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: Applejack looks as slight as the other girls, yet has moments demonstrating she's the strongest of the group. In the first movie, two jocks help Twilight lift a nearby table, then stop and look on slack-jawed as Applejack passes by easily carrying a similar-sized table under one arm. In Rainbow Rocks, she effortlessly catches a random punch from Rainbow Dash. In Legend of Everfree her magic develops into genuine Super-Strength, and she start showing off superhero levels of physical power.
  • How to Train Your Dragon has the Night Fury, Toothless, easily the fastest dragon in flight, and with one of the most powerful fire blasts. Also, despite being comparatively small, he easily survives hitting the ground any time he gets shot down or loses control of his flight.
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
    • Spider-Ham looks a harmless cartoon but as Scorpion learned to his cost, this little piggy is badass with a Hyperspace Mallet.
    • Miles Morles, Gwen Stacy and Penni Parker are ridiculously strong for their size.
    • The first warning sign about the lanky geeky scientist Olivia Octavius is how she effortlessly pushes Peter Parker across half the room and into a chair with a slight move of her palm.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • MCU Spider-Man stands a slim 5'8 being a teenager and most other Avengers tower over him, yet he still wiped the floor with Bucky Barnes and The Falcon (two experienced veterans), helped bring down Giant-Man, got Obsidian Cull killed and held his own against Thanos in close quarters and he's still learning.
  • The Beast of Kung Fu Hustle is an extremely unimpressive little old balding man with a potbelly, but he's got immense power in his blows and is Made of Iron to boot.
  • Serenity: River Tam is a fairly petite and slender girl who has been subjected to experiments that allow her to unleash some surprisingly powerful Waif-Fu.
    Wash: Start with the part where Jayne gets knocked out by a 90-pound girl, 'cause... I don't think that's ever getting old.
  • Alien: Resurrection - The version of Ripley in this film has alien DNA in her genetic code - this translates into enhanced strength, reflexes, agility and endurance than her appearance would suggest. She effortlessly knocks a large man flying with a backhand in one scene for example.

  • Sherlock Holmes counts, making this trope Older Than Television. Holmes is a tall, lanky man who is also a skilled martial artist and much stronger than he looks. In The Adventure of the Speckled Band, a murder suspect tries to intimidate him by bending a fire poker out of shape, but Holmes is not impressed and rather casually bends it straight again after the man leaves.
  • The Vord Queen in the Codex Alera books is terrifyingly powerful. While she looks a bit like a Cute Monster Girl, she's faster and stronger than Aleran crafters using Bullet Time and Super-Strength, crafts better than pretty much anyone anyway, can run up walls and ceilings, and is generally able to slice you to little pieces. Oh, and balest bolts bounce off her skin. To make matters worse, she's a brilliant commander with a massive, Hive Minded army consisting in large part of lesser Lightning Bruisers.
  • Max the Silent from Andrew Vachss's Burke books, despite not looking very powerful at first glance, is death in close quarters. In the event that someone manages to land a blow on him, it becomes apparent that he can shrug off should-be-painful stuff like multiple knee strikes from Muay Thai opponents.
  • Not "scrawny", but Durnik from The Belgariad is of medium build and much stronger than he appears. (Working as a blacksmith does that.)
  • Big Trouble: Puggy is presented as this, he doesn't look that impressive, but has carried heavy loads for most of his life, as seen in the climax when he removes three weightlifters from someone without visible exertion.
  • Pippi Longstocking: The titular character is this, being a Super-Strong Child.
  • Astra from Wearing the Cape looks like a teenage girl (she's actually just a petite adult) but is classified as one of the strongest Flying Brick Breakthroughs in the world.
  • Jace, Isabelle, Alec and Clary from The Mortal Instruments are shadowhunters. They are also teenagers, and do not look very strong, but each of them is superhuman strong and hunts demons. Simon, who is a vampire, also qualifies for it. Actually, it applies to most vampires, werewolves, fairies, and nephilim. Sometimes, however, one is underneath, who looks quite muscular.
  • Jaine Austen Mysteries:
    • Hank from Death By Pantyhose. He looks like a 90-pound weakling scared of his own shadow and using a workout machine as a coat rack. In reality, he works out often and apparently could have beaten Vic to a bloody pulp if he really wanted to.
    • In Death of a Neighborhood Witch, one of Jaine's neighbors is a little older woman, but she can lift up the end of a heavy couch like it was nothing.
  • Ryn, the main character of The One Who Eats Monsters, looks like a slightly underfed five-foot tall, sixteen-year old girl who weighs "one hundred and three pounds." She's actually the oldest monster in the world, can pummel a pair of gang enforcers so fast and so hard they literally don't know what happened, and can throw cars at people.
  • The demigods in Percy Jackson and the Olympians look like ordinary teenagers. However, each of them is superhuman strong. An exception might be the children of Ares and Hephaestus, who can look very muscular.
  • Princesses of the Pizza Parlor: In Princesses Don't Do Summer School, it's said that the "pale, slender hand" of a "little witch" was "stronger than she looked", having gripped Cassie's arm to keep her from touching a dangerous potion.
  • Teen Power Inc.: Girly Girl Richelle takes ballet lessons and, as a result, can kick shins or stomp feet with more strength than anyone expected, although this is rarely, if ever, important to the story.
  • Villainess Level 99: Many people refuse to believe Yumiella being Level 99, due to that level being way above anything heard of before and her frail physical appearance. The Second Prince even tried to get her expelled by claiming she was lying. It isn't until she demonstrates how powerful she is that people start to accept that she's telling the truth.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation. Data is a Ridiculously Human Robot who looks closer to normal Earth humans than the more imposing Nausicaans and Klingons. Yet, he bent a rod of par steel with a tensile strength of 40 kilobars (stronger than kevlar) with minimal effort in one episode using his bare hands. He also lifted a full size metal anvil effortlessly in another. In one episode, a Klingon tried to headbutt him. Data didn't budge.
    • A lot of Vulcans (including Spock, the original) look like slender geeks. While they prefer to use their intellect, they are quite a bit stronger than humans.
  • Babylon 5: Similarly to Vulcans, the Minbari (outside the Warrior caste) don't look that imposing, but Delenn snaps a thick wooden staff with her bare hands, and her rather runty assistant Lenier lifts a grown man by the neck.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Buffy looks like an ordinary teenage girl but has Super-Strength. The same goes for most of the vampires, though some of those actually do look pretty strong.
    • Caleb (the "priest") is also much stronger than his appearance would suggest being able to throw a Slayer around like a rag doll.
    • That probably applies to almost all slayers. They are young girls who have the physical powers of demons.
    • You also see three half-demons in Angel, Doyle, Connor and Billy Blim. Each of them does not look very strong or even muscled, yet each of them is superhumanly strong. There's also a half-demon named Groosalugg who looks muscular, but as a half-demon, he's much stronger than he looks.
    • An opponent of Buffy, the Hell Goddess Glory, had the appearance of a young woman, but was actually one of the strongest persons in the series.
  • Buck Rogers in the 25th Century episode "Cosmic Whiz Kid". Toman the assassin is from a high gravity planet. He looks rather weak but has superhuman strength in Earth-type environments, making him a formidable opponent.
  • The childlike and innocent Balki from Perfect Strangers is this. He is sometimes seen lifting heavy things and carrying people around (often his Cousin Larry) with seemingly no effort at all. When asked once about how he got his strength, he said “lifting sheep, I suppose.”
    • A unique Real Life example too, knowing that Bronson Pinchot usually just exhibited his own strength in these moments without any help from special effects or stunt actors.
  • On Supernatural, Castiel looks like a bookish tax accountant who'd do poorly in a fight, especially when compared to the more obviously muscled Winchesters. One character even comments upon meeting him that Cas is scrawnier than he expected. Castiel can easily lift several hundred pounds and punching him is more likely to break the attacker's hand than hurt him. This trope applies pretty much universally to all angels and demons in human bodies, as well as any monsters with outwardly human appearances, such as vampires or shapeshifters.
  • Wonder Woman: Every Amazon on Paradise Island looks like a model, but can bench press a car. And that doesn't get into a fraction of what Wonder Woman does during the series.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Masato Yoshino from Dragon Gate is a Fragile Speedster minus the fragile. He's the second smallest guy on the roster, but he can press guys his own size over his head, and knock guys much bigger than himself flying across the ring with a dropkick.
  • AJ Styles, while looking like an average-sized man, is not only lightning fast and agile, but can casually lift and tackle behemoths like Samoa Joe and Abyss, and can stand up and carry someone who is using a jujigatame (crucifix armbar) on him.

  • Manny "Pac-Man" Pacquiao, at this point the most famous boxer to come from Philippines. He started his career at a thin and wiry 106 pounds, has advanced all the way to 147 (almost unheard of in Boxing). And his KO percentage has risen, while he retains the same blinding hand speed he had at lower weights. Many a fighter in his heyday would find out just how dangerous such a combo can be, be it a withering nonstop onslaught that wears out the likes of David Diaz, or a One-Hit KO just right that ends the night right there for Ricky Hatton. While not as sharp as he once was, his domination of Lucas Matthysse shows he still has a good chunk of that legendary power.
  • Mark Recchi is small for a hockey player who plays a physical style (5'10, 180 pounds) but early in his career was nicknamed "The Wrecking Ball" for his propensity to crash into opponents, many larger than himself. Pat Verbeek, also qualifies, earning the amazing nickname "The Little Ball of Hate". Unlike Recchi, he was also known for fighting.
  • Mixed Martial Arts
    • UFC Featherweight champ Jose Aldo fights at 145 lbs and is known for his amazing knockout power in his hands, feet and knees.
    • UFC Middleweight champ Anderson "The Spider" Silva is a tall, skinny fighter at 185 lbs and is known for his one-punch knockout power as well as his effortless evasion on the feet. He's broken UFC records for winning streaks and title defenses.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Monks were intended to be this. They were meant to have high movement speed and hit very often. Unfortunately, the 3.5 version is often considered to be quite lacking at high levels of optimization. The 4e version does somewhat better as a relatively effective striker.
    • Anyone who is naturally weak but possesses or uses a magic/psionic item that grants increased strength. Examples include drinking a Potion of Giant Strength or wearing a Girdle of Giant Strength.
  • Old World of Darkness: Vampires grow stronger as they age, and their physical strength is no longer connected to their appearance. An ancient vampire, or one with high level of Potence, might look like a slender woman, an old man, or a child and yet have the strength to rip a man's head off.

    Video Games 
  • Dragon Age: Origins: For a mage with an Arcane Warrior specialization, their spellpower becomes a limiting factor for available armor and weapons instead of physical strength. Therefore your PC could be a delicate elven maiden in full adamantium plate swinging a zweihander that is longer than she is tall. Also, since the other go-to magical specialization is Blood Magic which requires a ton of HP to cast spells from, said maiden will most likely be secretly beefier than the resident beefcakes like Ogren or Sten.
  • Final Fantasy
  • The junction system in Final Fantasy VIII allows the player to boost any character's Strength, Stamina, and Speed dramatically by linking the stats to the right kinds of magic, but Zell deserves particular mention; his stat growth is naturally designed to make him hit fast and hard. At higher levels and with good junctions, his ATB speed becomes noticeably faster than the rest of the party's.
  • Defying the common expectations of his job class, Zidane Tribal of Final Fantasy IX is a surprisingly hard hitter and has good HP, only balanced by his lack of heavy armor (of which only two characters in the game use anyway). And then he becomes a straight-up nuker in his Super Mode.
  • Vaan from Final Fantasy XII, even if he may look scrawny, by virtue of him excelling in all stats.
  • EXTRAPOWER: Attack of Darkforce: The demure, taciturn Meido Idea. Also a magical homunculus created to defend Mayard's earthly mansion. Despite her small appearance, she can take hits like a tank and can crush enemies in her hands.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Tellius (ninth and tenth) installments
      • Ike is a pretty straightforward example of this. In Path of Radiance, he starts out a Fragile Speedster, but about halfway through, he becomes almost as strong and well armored as the Mighty Glaciers, but also retains his initial speed advantage. He starts out this way in Radiant Dawn, and only gets better (barring slight speed issues).
      • As is Sety (who actually has the possibility of getting enemies a 0% chance to hit him) and the swordmaster class.
      • Pretty much ANY Second Generation FE 4 character. Except for poor Corpul. Even those who'd appear to be Squishy Wizards , like Yuria, for example (Yuria's notable, her Physical Defense sucks, like a typical Squishy Wizard— but due to the fact that she's known for "vamping" via the Resire/Nosfetaru spell, are fully capable of taking even the hardest of hits and shrugging them off like they were nothing) are examples of this.
    • Many "Mercenary/Hero" class characters gain great speed and strength gains. And are strong enough to wield the heavier swords myrmidons cannot.
    • In Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, you could do this easily with Amelia, who had excellent speed growths and, if promoted into a Knight, access to the mighty General class.
    • Trueblades, the class that Swordmasters turn into after level 20 in Radiant Dawn, could also count, especially Mia. They have a ridiculous evasion rate, hit their target most of the time, and between all of their offensive stats you'd be hard-pressed to find anything short of a mini-boss or boss that can survive more than a single round with one; usually they'll end up getting killed by critical hits or their Astra ability.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Knuckles is the strongest character in the Sonic universe, even if he's as small as Sonic or Tails.
    • In Sonic Chronicles, Sonic is the Jack of All Stats except for being the fastest character in the game. In the usual gaming fare, he's a Fragile Speedster and somewhat of a Glass Cannon but it really just depends on whether you can hold on to a single ring. In Sonic Unleashed, he does indeed play this straight, as he is able to move fast, destroy tough enemies, and lose only 20 rings per hit. Sonic's "Sonic boost" ability also contributes.
    • Alex Mercer of just seems like a guy in a hoodie and jacket. But he can run fast enough to scale buildings and outrun helicopters. And can lift cars above his head, dropkick people to send them flying a block away. And let's not even go into his blades, tentacles, claws, clubs, or shapeshifting powers. It helps that he has a ton of mass hidden beneath that lanky physique, to the point where a four-foot drop to the ground will result in cracked pavement and simply standing on a tank will noticeably slow it down; definitely a hard-hitting speedster.
    • The sequel [PROTOTYPE 2] gives protagonist James Heller similar powers, and a comparison between the two reveals that Mercer is stronger, but Heller is much faster.
  • Several characters in Resident Evil.
  • Devil May Cry:
    • Dante looks like any other human, as many of the bosses assume. However, his devil heritage gives him both the Healing Factor to shrug off humanly-fatal wounds and the power and speed to tear enemies a new one with ease. At least in cutscenes.
    • Trish, unlike Dante is willowly yet she can still lift a mototbike above her head and throw it at Dante.
    • Arkham from Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening doesn't look that physically imposing at all, yet he's strong enough to flip-throw a solid wooden desk at Dante with one hand and later on is able to send Lady, Dante, and Vergil all flying with one good kick (granted Dante and Vergil were both worn out from fighting each other).
  • The Big Sisters in BioShock 2 are much faster and more agile than the Big Daddies, and able to dish out a surprising amount of hurt. They are also probably the most terrifying enemy you face in the game...and this is RAPTURE we're talking about.
  • From the ''Wild ARMs series...
    • Rudy Roughnight from Wild ARMs is a small, thin fifteen year old who can hold his own in a fight and, in the original, can lug around several guns bigger than he is. A Flashback reveals he's had abnormally high strength since childhood, where he's shown throwing a large crate across the square like it's nothing, and accidently terrifying those around him as a result.
    • Wild ARMs 2 has the protagonist Ashley Winchester who fits this trope like a glove. Even though his build is average, he's got a pretty good HP, can insanely be fast even without his Accelerator Force Action, can deal good damage, and yet wields a bayonet that looks like a BFS. And that's not even getting into his Superpowered Evil Side.
  • Arch-Viles in the Doom series are fast, can take tons of damage, are resistant to flinching, attack with a deadly line-of-sight fire spell, and can revive or summon enemies.
    • The Doomguy in the old games also qualifies. He carries an alarming number of heavy weapons and runs at something approaching highway speeds.
  • Shadow Man the robot ninja in Mega Man 3 is similar to Quick Man from Mega Man 2, but faster and tougher, and has the same sliding ability as Mega Man. Catch is, if you know the right sequence, you can use this against him.Explanation 
  • Yuuto and Etrangers in general function as this in Aselia the Eternal - The Spirit of Eternity Sword which is why they are valued so highly. While Yuuto has basically no skill in combat to start, he's still a match for all but the most skilled and powerful of spirits. Also, Eternals.
  • P.N.03's Vanessa Z. Schneider. Just looks like your average female adult protagonist, but with Blackbird suit, unlocked on a New Game Plus, she has all stats maxed out, making Vanessa one of these. To a lesser extent there's the Ultra Fusion, arguably the best non-secret suit.
  • In Buriki One, there're Takato Saionji and Song Xuandao, a skinny young boy and an old man, respectively. Both fighters managed martial arts that specialize in easily defeat fighters more muscular and taller than them by using their strenght against them. Takato uses Aikido and Song uses Tai Chi Chuan, and both manage their martial arts very well, necessary in a game full of Muscles Are Meaningful.
  • The titular Bug from Bug! appears to look like a small green bug that's decidedly not muscular, and relies on a stinger tail for a physical attack. However, he's capable of pushing blocks that are larger than him — the manual even tells you he's stronger than he looks, by virtue of being an insect.
    Game manual: Many insects can lift over 7 times their body weight. Use that muscle! Push blocks to build gangways to out-of-reach areas.
  • In Xenoblade Chronicles 3, when the two sides of the Ouroboros first agree to start working together, Sena describes herself in this fashion during their introductions, stating that, despite appearances, she can lift much more than she weighs. Later, when the party first swap their classes with one another, Lanz takes on Sena's class, and, upon picking up her hammer, marvels that she was able to carry it around without the assistance of a power frame.
    • It's also established that this goes for Agnians as a whole, notably demonstrated when Mio sends a Moebius several times her size flying with an angry punch to the face.


    Web Original 
  • Red vs. Blue: Agent Texas and Carolina. Downplayed; like most freelancers, they just look like normal soldiers (albeit in armour) but are exceptionally fast and hard-hitting, even amongst their fellows.
  • Kanata Amane of hololive, despite her young age, reportedly below-average size, and a history of underlying health problems, has a reputation of being the physically strongest member of the agency, revealing during a Ring Fit Adventure livestream that she has a grip strength of 50 kg (for reference, the average grip strength for women is around 25-35 kg). Fellow hololive member and real-world roommate Coco Kiryu has repeatedly affirmed Kanata's inexplicable strength and how useful it is around the house, and even her doctor was confused by it relative to her lack of muscle mass.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Multiple:
    • Both of the Fire siblings. They may be young but they're very talented firebenders, especially Azula who can bend lightning.
    • The same series also gives us Toph and Aang. Although you would expect Aang to be more of a Fragile Speedster, mastering all the elements other than just air really helps him with the bruisin'.
  • Droopy: Puny dog who has surprised many of his opponents by beating the shit out of them when you make him mad.
  • When The Flintstones neighbors, the Rubbles, decided to adopt a Doorstop Baby, Barney reached out a finger to stroke the cute boy. The babe responded by gripping Barney's finger, and promptly demonstrated Metronomic Man Mashing with him. Barney, glad to have a healthy son, took this well.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Rainbow Dash, who is a boisterous tomboy and has been shown to not only fly fast enough to accomplish the legendary "Sonic Rainboom" — the only pegasus known to have ever done so, including the two god-princess alicorns — but has since also gained enough control over the ability to manipulate it into a thermonuclear explosion used to utterly demolish a huge old barn. And that's just the tip of the iceberg; on another occasion, she kicked a fully grown dragon in the face hard enough to not only provoke it into going on the offensive, when the entire problem the dragon posed was that it refused to get up from its nap, but actually whine near-tearfully about it afterwards in conjunction with Fluttershy's amazing verbal beatdown.
    • Big Macintosh can also be very fast and very strong when he needs to — being towed to a house doesn't even slow him down, when he's on the run. That wasn't even Big Macintosh running at full tilt, he was literally hopping.
  • Candace from Phineas and Ferb has demonstrated remarkable strength on few occasions despite being a teenager. These occasions include when was able to cripple an alligator with her bare hands ("Fireside Girl Jamboree") and when she subdued a giant video game boss Buford by smacking him across the face with her in-game life bar ("Gaming the System"). She can perform one-handed push-ups ("I Was a Middle Aged Robot") and she has also been shown to be able to lift and carry her mother with no apparent difficulty.
  • The Simpsons: Ned Flanders has been shown as quite muscled underneath his clothes.
  • Female vampire Carmilla in Castlevania is physically petite and yet she still kicked the muscly Godbrand down a staircase like a soccer ball.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM), easily Sonic. Though in the games he is usually much more a Fragile Speedster, here he can punch and kick robots (kicking makes sense...), and when already running, throw things multiple times his size with his momentum. He is also the only Freedom Fighter to have broken security cameras by throwing junk at them...with ONE hand...
  • Teen Titans: In the first episode when Cinderblock grabs her, Starfire (an otherwise scrawny looking teenage alien) outright states the trope before she gives him a mighty kick to the face that sends him flying back.
  • Tom and Jerry: Jerry is able to beat up Tom with a force impossible for someone his size. He has also lifted up other things like golfclubs and the like. Muscles, Jerry's cousin, takes this to an even more extreme degree, being much stronger and can easily defeat cats much bigger than he is.

    Real Life 
  • Bruce Lee. At 5'7", 140 pounds, he was the epitome of the Pint-Sized Powerhouse. Legend has it that he could hit a leather punching bag so hard that it would tear a hole in it and so fast that a 24-frame-per-second video camera would have trouble following him as anything but a blur.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Stronger Than You Look


Officer Anne Lewis

Murphy is surprised to see his new partner, Lewis, beating up a misbehaving perp.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / StrongerThanTheyLook

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