The Strongman (alternatively known as the muscleman carnie) is a term used to describe people who would perform feats of impressive strength and skill to entertain the less impressive masses, performing bent presses (since bench presses did not exist when the concept became a thing), they would support a large amount of weight held overhead, they would break chains, bend steel and a host of other fantastic examples of Super Strength.
In the late 20th century, the title of "strongmen" became associated with the sport of weight lifting, displaying raw strength through the lifting and pushing of heavy objects like rocks, refrigerators, even trains and massive vehicles, all in competition with other strongmen.
There is no set uniform for the Strongman, but the most common image people attribute to him is a handlebar mustache and Pelts of the Barbarian made from the hide of a jungle cat, implying that they are wild, self-sufficient men who had hunted and skinned that dangerous animal themselves.
- Marvel Universe: The Circus of Crime has Bruto the Strongman, a strongman from Sweden who is exceptionally strong for a human, but who is no match for most superheroes.
- Ghorgor Bey in Black Moon Chronicles was part of a traveling circus in his youth, which included a strongman who used his dumbbells as weapons.
- In Tintin in America, Tintin is kidnapped by a gang of criminals and thrown into Lake Michigan chained to a barbell... which floats. Cut to a strongman trying and failing to lift his barbell and figuring out someone stole his wooden ones.
- In Watchmen, it's speculated that the costumed hero Hooded Justice (one of the earliest, strongest, and most brutal of the costumed heroes) was in fact a circus strongman named Rolf Muller, who mysteriously disappeared right around the time that Hooded Justice abruptly "retired" and vanished from public life.
- Mendoza The Great featured a character named Beau Brummy, a wrestler who can twist a fire poker into a lopp with his bare hands. He became the opponent of famed boxer Daniel Mendoza. He was written as a foil to Mendoza who used his speed, agility and wit against Brummy's size and strength, to show that cunning was superior to brute strength.
- The 5'1 Golden Age Atom, Al Pratt, was patterned after real-life 5'4 Jewish Strongman Joe Greenstein. Wearing an outfit based on circus strongmen, The Atom routinely defeated scores of enemies single-handedly, punched men clear across a room, bent steel bars, etc. And that was before he acquired superhuman strength and an Atomic Punch.
- Hercules from Freaks is the strongman of the circus in which the film takes place. With the film's themes involving a divide between the freakshow and the rest of the circus, Hercules is Cleopatra's lover, conspiring with her in a plan where she marries Hans (a dwarf in the freakshow), kills him and the two run away with his inherited fortune.
- In The Unknown, Alonzo's Lovely Assistant Nanon falls in love with the circus' handsome strongman Malabar, which sends Alonzo into a Villainous Breakdown.
- The live-action remake of Dumbo has its resident circus strongman, named Rongo, whose strength comes in handy in the climax when he does his part to help the other circus performers save Mrs. Jumbo.
- Sherlock Holmes: In "The Veiled Lodger", the wife of a traveling circus had an affair with the circus strongman and conspired with him to murder her abusive husband. He made a club that left wounds similar to a lion's paw, the plan being to crush his skull and blame the lion but it all went wrong, the husband was killed and the lion blamed, but the wife ended up horribly disfigured.
- In the American Gods (2017) episode "Donar the Great", it is revealed that Mr. Wednesdaynote and Mr. Nancynote had led a popular Burlesque troupe in the 1930s. Donar (the American incarnation of Thor) worked as their most popular act as their professional strongman "Donar the Great". He would eventually be found by the Friends of New Germany and hired as their own competitive strongman.
- Worzel Gummidge has an episode where Aunt Sally gets a crush on a strongman called the Great Orlando.
- Get Smart. In "The Greatest Spy on Earth", Max and 99 are investigating a diamond smuggling ring in a circus, which has the obligatory World's Strongest Man in Hondo.
Hondo: Hondo can lift locomotive with one hand.
Agent 99: Really? Do you happen to know anything about diamonds, Hondo?
Hondo: Hondo can crush diamonds with teeth!
Max: What kind of a trick is that?
Agent 99: What else does Hondo do?
Hondo: Hondo's greatest trick is keeping twin engine plane from taking off.
Agent 99: How do you do that?
Hondo: I break pilot's legs.
- Pocito from Moshi Monsters works at a circus lifting weights to impress people. He also wins at the "Test Your Strength" game consistently until the Super Moshis beat him.
- In Pokémon, Timburr and its evolutions evoke the image of the traditional Circus Strongman, with each form wielding a heavier object to bludgeon foes with, starting with Timburr wielding a large log, Gurdurr wielding a metal girder, and Conkeldurr dual-wielding massive slabs of concrete.
- The City of Heroes Circus of Fear enemy group the Carnival of Shadows included strongmen among its members. Medical examination of a captured strongman revealed they're zombies.
- Q'aman from The Longest Journey is a literal giant of a man (easily over 3 meters tall) who worked as a circus strongman in Corasan until he accidentally injured a prince's son and had to flee the country, literally swimming across the ocean to reach the Alais Island where April meets him in the game.
- Wolfgang from Don't Starve is labeled as such, and is fittingly the strongest character in the game.
- In one episode of Phineas and Ferb, the titular stepbrothers convert their home into a fun house. One of the things found here is a strongman who is trying to lift up a feather that weighs a ton. As this happens, Phineas and Ferb are each holding up a 1,000-lb. weight by their feet.
- In one Droopy cartoon, Daredevil Droopy, Droopy and Spike compete for the role of acrobatic dog in a circus dog act. One tryout they have to do is a test of strength courtesy of Simpson the Strong Man. Spike tries to cheat by covering part of the barbells Droopy is to lift so that it looks like he's lifting one-pound weights as opposed to the original 1,000 pounds. As one might expect, Droopy succeeds in lifting the barbells with no trouble at all, but when a surprised Spike tries it, the strips covering the barbells come loose and they weigh down on Spike and send him crashing through the floor.
- In the Dick Van Dyke episode of The New Scooby-Doo Movies, Van Dyke's carnival is haunted by a ghostly strongman. It's revealed that the strongman wanted to be the new owner of the carnival.
- Family Guy has Phineas and Barnaby, two Recurring Extras who mostly showed up early in the series. They are a pair of fitness-obsessed strongmen who have a tendency to act like Fish out of Temporal Water by doing things typical of the late 1800's, like riding old time bicycles with giant front wheels and using a gramophone to play jazz, which they consider to be a new genre of music.
- Louis Cyr was a French Canadian strongman with a career spanning the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His recorded feats, including lifting 500 pounds (227 kg) with one finger and backlifting 4,337 pounds (1,967 kg), show Cyr to be, according to Ben Weider, a former chairman of the International Federation of Bodybuilding & Fitness, the strongest man ever to have lived. (Incidentally, two grand in his lifetime was worth some 25 times what it would be at the time this trope was launched.)