Does Not Know His Own Strength

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Uh... your door's broken.

In real life, people can control how much pressure they apply to things. An Olympic athlete that can lift several times his own weight can also pick up a caterpillar without squishing it. This is not always true in fiction. For some odd reason, some super powered characters have a lower limit to their dexterity. This would make sense if the character had just recently acquired super strength and tried to use the same amount of exertion to pet a kitten as he had done before. For those who have had this power their entire life, there should be no problem.

That doesn't stop some writers from using it as a gag. The character's super strength creates a problem interacting with the real world. They break coffee cups, regularly smash windows, doors and other entrances and egresses and frankly cannot be trusted with a small child's toy. In worst case scenarios, their incredible powers result in damage to important facilities or even living beings. Cue guilt trip.

This trope is related to Blessed with Suck but is specific to strength and to powers which resemble strength (i.e. the ability to crush objects via telekinesis) and is not primarily a bad thing; the empowered individual often finds their strength to be very handy when they're not having to do delicate things like handle children's rattles.

If the hero's family is unaware of his powers, undoubtedly the blame for the damage will fall on 'shoddy construction' or on another house member's bad attempts at DIY.

A frequent and more realistic variation of this is that the hero is able to control his strength, but when tempers flare or the hero is startled (or otherwise incapacitated, or perhaps inebriated) that control quickly lapses. Another variation involves Functional Magic or Psychic Powers, where a mage or telekinetic who could decimate armies with their powers have to do chores by hand, because they lack fine control. After all, when you're incinerating enemies, "Too much fire" isn't really a problem.

Compare And Call Him George, when it happens to (formerly) living things.

Examples of Does Not Know His Own Strength include:

Anime & Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • During her early life in a highly enhanced prosthetic body, the Major of Ghost in the Shell had some major (no pun intended) difficulties controlling the prosthetics' strength. She mentions (and it is shown in the opening credits) that she once smashed a doll by being unable to control her own limbs.
  • Muay Thay God of Death Apachai Hopachai in Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple. Also a Gentle Giant on his own right, he is really kind to all living things, being even able to speak with animals. Unfortunately, due to the Training from Hell he went through during his childhood (and the fact that he was thrown in life-or-death battles even as a kid) he's uncapable of sparring with Kenichi without delivering several blows that would have killed anyone less resilient. It gets to a point when Kenichi loses the memory of being hit due to a concussion.
    • He's actually killed Kenichi at least once. The other masters are able to revive the poor kid, and it's been mostly played for laughs.
    • Kenichi himself gets into this early on. One of the more humorous examples has him giving a "light" slapping to Niijima, and manages to knock him out instead. Somewhat justified, as Kenichi had been a total weakling not too long ago, so he's not at all used to having to hold back his strength.
  • Finny from Black Butler tends to do this, the result being lots of broken things and a crowning moment of awesome when he gets to use this to his advantage.
  • During one of the tournaments, contestants are qualified to participate in the fight by punching a machine that registers the force delivered. Goku and his friends have to concentrate really hard to hit the machine without breaking it. Vegeta doesn't hold back.
  • During the filler episodes leading up to the Cell Games in Dragonball Z, Goku and Gohan had this problem as Super Saiyans. Needless to say, Chi-Chi wasn't amused. The viewers were, though.
    • There was also the time Goku returned home after being away from earth for many years. Goku attempted to calm his wife Chi-Chi down with a simple pat on the back, causing her to fly through a wall and a tree. It worked.
    • An earlier filler example happens when Goku recovers from his heart illness, and he and Chi-Chi do the "happily toss into the air" bit when they reunite. Goku, momentarily(?) forgetting his own strength, accidentally tosses Chi-Chi too far (as in, too high to see). She didn't really seem to mind, probably since it reaffirms his aforementioned recovery.
    • His youngest son, Goten, unknowingly achieves Super Saiyan for the first time while training with Chi-Chi. He promptly kicks her, assuming she'll still be faster than him and dodge. She's not, and flies about twenty feet into a tree. She's perfectly fine, and not the slightest bit angry, just upset that her youngest son is already an alien killing machine.
    • Even Chi-Chi herself gets in on the action. In an early episode, while waiting longer than usual for Goku to return home (he may have been dead at the time), she decides to wash the dishes. About every other dish gets squeezed so hard it cracks, then dropped into a convenient garbage bin.
    • the very first time this trope was in effect was during the preliminary matches of the 21st tournament. Goku playfully tapped his opponent (A big, muscular man) in the back of his leg, causing the man to fall out of the ring in pain. Goku quickly told Krillin to be careful from then on.
  • Being a combat cyborg blessed with Super Strength, Subaru of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS mentions her fear of performing this trope during a flashback. Also illustrated in the manga during a wall-climbing exercise, when a Teana that just met her asked her to put a little more strength in boosting her up, causing the now terrified girl to achieve her dream of taking to the skies a lot earlier than she expected.
    • Since she received her powers by fusing with a Great Big Book of Everything containing the strongest spells in the multiverse, Hayate literally cannot use low-power magic. As a result, the TSAB normally treat her similarly to a tactical nuke, only calling her in to cast a single spell in certain situations (and after evacuation orders have been given). Which is odd, given that Rein Eins' usage of spells like Bloody Dagger show that Hayate should, at least in theory, be able to fight at the anti-personnel level.
    • In a sound stage of A's, after Shamal forgot to heat up the water for bathing Vita asks Signum use her magic. She answers that she lacks finesse for smaller tasks.
    • A physical strength example occurs in ViVid, when Miura Rinaldi, one of Zafira's students in martial arts, accidentally breaks the wookden pole she uses for training soon after it was fixed.
  • In the Anime/Manga series GetBackers, one of the repeating causes of the main characters' crushing debt is the fact that Ban can't seem to control his strength when he is in a bad mood. As a result, he and Ginji frequently find themselves having to pay for damages to the Honky Tonk as a result of Ban breaking everything from coffee-cups to plates, tables, bars, doors, windows, and even walls.
  • Ryoga from Ranma ½. Whenever his emotions get too much, or his mind wanders, everything he touches tends to crumble around him. Combine this with the fact he gained the ability to shatter inanimate matter with a finger jab early in the series, and you've got a man who has as much trouble not destroying Tokyo as he does navigating it.
    • There is also a storyline in which Akane gains Super Strength due to accidentally eating food called Super Soba, and briefly falls into this trope. She first discovers her newfound strength when she casually sets her bowl down, and promptly smashes the table and the floor below the table. She would also regularly pat other characters (usually Ranma) with what was supposed to be a light touch on the head or shoulder, and instead sent them flying.
    • During a mid-manga story, Ranma is weakened by a vengeful Happousai. The cure involves a painful-looking moxibustion technique applied on his back—out of reflex, he tries to swat Cologne off his back, only to find himself smashing a solid concrete roller (the kind used to flatten sports fields) purely by accident.
    • It's played up more in the manga version, but Shampoo often destroys things around her, tearing through walls rather than going for the door or shattering doors when she does use them. It's debateable whether she counts for this, though, as it's just as likely that she just likes to show off that she's a Cute Bruiser.
  • In Tenchi Muyo! GXP, protagonist Seina Yamada has to spend several episodes learning to control this after being given enhanced strength and speed. Of course, this turns out to be a lovely excuse to set up some Innocent Cohabitation...
  • While Gaou in Eyeshield 21 knows how strong he is, he doesn't understand the very idea of "holding back", and is thus completely unable to do so in any situation. The same can be said for Husky Russkie Rodchenko. Kurita, on the other hand, is too strong and too friendly for his own good, meaning big, painful hugs all around.
    • Shin also does this from time to time, usually with electronic devices.
  • Jack Rakan from Mahou Sensei Negima! does this on occasion. Such as the time he accidentally blew up a mountain. Normally he causes this kind of destruction on purpose.
  • Roy Mustang suffers from this in chapter 107 of Fullmetal Alchemist. It doesn't stop him from getting a Crowning Moment of Awesome.

Roy: Without my vision I can't limit the blast properly!
Hawkeye: Don't limit it at all!

  • Durarara!!'s Shizuo Heiwajima is prone to this, especially when angry. At one point the Yakuza even deduce Shizuo's recent presence in an apartment complex simply by the state of the stairway's guardrails -- which is not very difficult, as Shizuo managed to utterly destroy them on his way out.
  • In Super Robot Wars Original Generation: The Inspector, Lamia listens to a rather heartwarming speech from Kai to Ryusei and Bullet about trying to get the captured Arado to make a Heel Face Turn of his own will. As the speech finishes, Excellen cheerfully points out to Lamia that she's accidentally twisted the handles of the exercise machine she had been using into a pretzel.
  • The few countries in Axis Powers Hetalia with Super Strength are very prone to this. America in particular. Usually at either Japan or England's expense.
  • In Tiger and Bunny, it's implied that Kotetsu had this problem back when was a child ("I'm not supposed to touch anyone when I'm like this. I'll hurt people."), which was why he was ashamed of his NEXT abilities up until he encountered Mr. Legend.
  • Sakura Haruno in Naruto. While training with Tsunade during the time skip of the original series, Sakura acquires the same herculean strength that she has. But of course, whenever Naruto does anything Sakura thinks is stupid, she manages to find some petty reason to pound the tar out of him and send him flying with just one punch.


Comics[edit | hide]

  • The comics version of Superman is the primary aversion of this, where his strength is almost always played as a positive and the negatives are rarely highlighted.
    • One story from the '90s saw Supe's strength start increasing exponentially. This trope definitely came into play then.
    • Some versions of Krypto the Super Dog apply this trope. Being just a dog, he really doesn't know his own strength.
    • Many, many times in various Superman comics would other people gain Superman's strength. This trope almost always applies.
    • And the Larry Niven classic Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex.
    • An excellent 1960s issue of Superboy dealt with a villain tricking young Supes into thinking he had accidentally killed Lana Lang with a careless display of strength. Grief-stricken, Superboy turns himself in to the police and sits brooding in a jail cell, giving the villain and his mooks a free window of opportunity to commit crimes unopposed. Naturally, it's all a ruse, and Lana turns out to have been merely kidnapped and is totally unharmed.
    • In Infinite Crisis, a character named Superboy Prime (he's from the real world) attacks the DCU's Superboy, beating him badly whilst causing a huge amount of damage to the town of Smallville, until a (fairly large) group(s) of other heroes arrive as back-up. When a heroine named Pantha calls him a 'stupid kid', he retaliates by proclaiming that he isn't stupid, seemingly with the intention to merely smack her across the face...... He ends up taking her head off and killing her, visibly shocked when he notices the blood on his hand.
    • In Superman Annual #8, Pounder, one of a far-future League of Supermen in who have each been genetically engineered to have one of Superman's powers, has support staff who have to do everything for him, because it's not safe for him to touch things. (The whole League is Blessed with Suck, in fact.)
    • In Superman Secret Origins, a teenage Clark Kent, who's powers were just beginning to emerge, really had no idea how strong he was. It caused problems when he tried to play football with his friends and accidentally broke Pete Ross's arm.
  • On the other hand, Supergirl does this in on occasion, for example in one of Redan's Batman and Superman comic strips. Then again, she was still learning to control her powers.
    • One of the explicit differences between Superman and Supergirl is that Superman has mental blocks he imposed on himself so there's an upper limit to how much power he'll use, while Supergirl has no such blocks, allowing her to at times be stronger than her cousin.
      • Stronger, not better. When they fought, Superman easily defeated and immobilized her (and actually threatened he could do it any time he wanted to if need be). Supergirl has been using her power for one year or two. Superman has been fighting people more powerful than he allowed himself to be since he was twenty.
      • According to the novelisation of the Death and Life of Superman, Superman becomes aware of these blocks and bypasses them as anything less than 100% of his strength won't be enough to take down Doomsday. He starts unleashing the kind of punches that he would never use against a different opponent.
        • Also lampshaded in the original comic from time to time. One story involved the Parasite draining Superman's ability to self-limit his powers. Superman wrongly concluded that his powers were growing beyond his ability to control them. He correspondingly took steps to weaken himself, which is exactly what the Parasite wanted.
      • In the 1970 story "Supergirl's Lost Uniform", Supergirl while in her Linda Danvers identity lifted what she thought was a fake 500-lb weight and twirled it like a baton. The fake was the one next to it. Oops.
  • Jack in the comic book Next Men cannot control his super-strength and has to be guided places so he does not break objects by accidentally brushing up against them.
  • In X-Men, when Colossus is stuck in transformed form he gets angsty about people seeing him as a monster. He then proceeds to try and call his team from a phonebooth but since he is frustrated, trying to dial the number causes his fingers to punch right through the phone.
    • This is somewhat justified, as he is also both much larger and much stronger than before his injury, and had been spending all of his time up to this point at Moira MacTaggart's infirmary. The caption also says he trashed the phone because he was still not used to his greater strength, not frustration. The cause for his greater size and strength was also implied to be Magneto's attempt to 'heal' him magnetically.
  • Done tragically in The DCU Elseworld story "Created Equal". The second issue of the two-parter starts In Medias Res just as a five-year old Alex Kent has accidentally killed his mother, Lois, by hugging her.
  • In Nextwave, the narration mentions that the Captain once knocked a man's lungs out of his chest by patting him on the back... but in his defense, he was drunk.
  • The titular character in Concrete is very much Blessed with Suck in this regard, being a half-ton stone man who doesn't dare try to hold anything breakable.
  • The titular character in Monica's Gang suffers because of this. Since she's only 6, it leads to really funny situations (although not as much funny for her parents, that have to pay for the broken stuff, or for Jimmy Five and Smudgy, that have to feel in their skins what her inhuman strength causes. Of course, all in the Amusing Injuries territory, since it's for kids.
  • In a Wolverine series, there is a grown-up mutant with super strength but the intelligence of an infant. A horse tries to kick him and he punches it, then he gets upset because he can't put the horse's head back on.
  • The JSA recently introduced Citizen Steel, who literally doesn't know his own strength—the accident that gave him his powers also deadened his sense of touch, meaning he can't feel how much force he's exerting. He walks around in a costume he was cast into so that he can control it.
  • Obelix from Asterix does seem to know his strength... he is just apparently unaware that not everyone possesses that strength, hence his failure to understand the difference between "knock the door" and "smash the door" and why no one around him is able to carry tiny menhirs.
  • In the last issue of the Marvel MAX Barracuda miniseries, Barracuda pats the young hemophiliac he had been charged with turning into a cold blooded killer on the back... killing him. To be fair, Barracuda is a fucking beast of a man, but that's... dag, son.
  • In 52, being a god-empowered superbeing stopped being fun for Osiris after he killed his sister Isis' attacker, the Persuader, by flying into him too hard.
  • A lot of humour stemmed from the use of this trope in the 1970s comic strip Wee Ben Nevis which featured in The Beano. This trope is also frequently used in The Dandy's most famous strip Desperate Dan.
  • The titular character from "Irredeemable" also fits this trope. Basically a Superman expy, in one scene where he visits one of the many sets of foster parents he had as a child, we see him feeding their severely disabled (adult) biological son. Turns out he was there the day that Jr. came home from the hospital with Mum...he just wanted to give his new baby brother a hug...
  • A few superheroes in PS238 have this problem, specifically Superman expy Atlas (he can handle normal humans without causing injuries, but according to his son, "He's broken more TV remote controls than I can count") and Julie, at least with Moon Shadow ("I forgot that when 84 gets excited, she hugs people") - his unofficial mentor half-joked alluding that a kiss could be more dangerous. And Bernard, but he's stuck in "Bernard Smash!" mode, so in his case this comes with territory.

Fan Works[edit | hide]

  • Twisted Toyfare Theater—The Hulk encounters Ewoks. "Hulk pet fuzzy too hard! Fuzzy pop!"
    • And the time he petted the bunny too hard. And then did the same with Cyclops.
  • Kyon from Kyon: Big Damn Hero.
    • Because of the nature of his training he knows martial arts but he doesn't remember any experience with them, including the specific effects of his attacks on opponents. After the fight on chapter 12, Iyouji was surprised when he had to ask how bad were the injuries he made on the Mooks.
    • In a later chapter, a Fictional Document reminded that while getting new powers were good, one should also learn to be careful with them.
  • Many Fanon depictions of Touhou's Flandre Scarlet make her out to be this. Those she "plays with" do not last long. However, in canon, this decently true because she can't control her powers (a bad problem to have, given that her power is the ability to destroy anything that exists), thus it is speculated that she never learned, thus having a hard time expressing playfulness without harm.
  • Paul, in spades, in With Strings Attached. Compounded by his having two levels of strength, “low” (where he can lift about 8 tons) and “high” (where he can lift at least 90 tons). After practicing day and night (literally) for several weeks he can act relatively normal at “low” strength (though he still breaks things if he doesn't take care); however, at “high” strength, which he tries not to use unless practicing, he can just barely function in the real world. He is continually conscious of his strength, so that in proximity to other people, he hardly moves, and he never makes sudden gestures.
  • Mentioned a couple of times in The Secret Return of Alex Mack as having happened to Willow Rosenberg as a child, most notably when she accidentally injured her father by greeting him too enthusiastically.


Films -- Animation[edit | hide]

  • The Incredibles. Mr. Incredible got very stressed out the day he was fired and broke a number of things. He dented a doorknob, shattered the car's window, and cut straight through the plate and part of the table when cutting his son's steak. He's usually in control though, capable of doing little fiddly things with his hands even as he holds up something gigantic.
    • Lest we forget, he also threw his boss through seven walls. However, he arguably did that on purpose in a fit of rage, seeing as how he grabbed him by the neck to do it.
  • The young Tigress was shown to be like this in Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Furious Five, till she learned self-control.
  • Used in Disney's Hercules. In that version, Hercules is unaware of his heritage as a demi-god with Super Strength until he's a teenager; his lack of knowledge and control of his strength made him a male Dojikko and shunned by the local villagers. Until he learns the truth, goes off to search for Philoctetes and starts taking levels in badass through his Training from Hell...
  • In Monsters vs. Aliens, Ginormica initially has this problem after discovering she has super strength (more than her massive form should have, at any rate). She ends up nearly crushing Derek in her excitement to see him again. Other than that, though, she manages to keep a handle on it.


Films -- Live Action[edit | hide]

  • Sky High has the Commander keep a couple of those mobile landlines in a drawer in case he breaks one on a rant.
    • Also, once Will gets his super strength, he accidentally rips his front door off its hinges by opening it.
  • Played with in Up, Up, and Away. The protagonist is born into a family of superheroes, but was born without a power. In order to convince his family that he's not a loser, he rigs certain things to fall apart as he uses them, such as taking the screws off the door hinges to make it appear he ripped it off. Played straight with a Noodle Incident for his father, who apparently did quite some damage to his house's foundation.
  • One more word: Hancock. Though in his case, it's more a case of him simply not bothering to check his superstrength.
  • In the Fantastic Four movie, The Thing is prone to doing this with drinkwear, though it could also be related to reduced sensation with his new skin making it hard to tell how much he's squeezing.
    • Also, few chairs support his weight any more, but he doesn't always remember this.
  • The Autobots of the Transformers movie basically destroy Sam's backyard, though that's mostly due to scale issues.
  • In Superman Returns, Clark accidentally breaks the glass in the picture frame he's holding when Jimmy surprises him with the information that "Lois is a mommy".
  • Elvis Presley's boxing movie, Kid Galahad.
  • In Kamen Rider the First, Hongo Takeshi runs afoul of this trope in a non-comedic manner, trying to save a little girl from being hit by a truck. He scoops her up a little too forcefully, and while he does save her life, she has to be hospitalized anyway due to the pressure he put on her body.
  • At the end of Young Frankenstein, the Monster accidentally rips off Inspector Kemp's wooden arm while shaking hands. Understandable, as the brain hasn't been attached to that body for very long..


Literature[edit | hide]

  • This happens a lot to Mary Beth Layton in the book Superpowers. She first discovers her super strength by breaking a door knob. And a door. And the refrigerator door handle. And a pitcher. And the phone. And the toilet, the TV remote, a broom and most of her plates and bowls. She also slips up and breaks her boyfriend's ribs during sex, and beats a man to death by accident.
    • Wow. You'd think she would have figured it out by the third or fourth broken object.
  • The trope is present in Soon I Will Be Invincible as one of many background details. Doctor Impossible breaks the handle of a toilet, the cyborg Fatale's weight makes hardwood floors creak and cracks tiles, and she can't use normal furniture.
  • Perhaps the Trope Maker is the protagonist from Philip Wylie's Gladiator, the character credited with inspiring the Superman mythos. His superpower is basically superstrength, and it does him no good at all in this world. He accidentally kills a man playing football, gets fired from a manual labour job because he's making everyone else look bad, gets fired from a bank job because he saves someone from suffocating in the vault, and they want to know how he opened it... The entire novel is about what, realistically, it would be like to live with superstrength. A very modern look at a superhero before there were superheroes.
  • Used in Richard Scarry's books. Hilda, an anthropomorphic hippo child, accidentally rips a door off its hinges when she is told to open the door so the students can go out to play. Later, when the door is fixed, she rips out the door along with part of the wall when she attempts the same thing.
    • Lampshaded when she states, "Oh dear, I'm as strong as ten average little girls." Which causes one to wonder, how strong are the girls in this universe?
      • Perhaps Hilda doesn't really know how strong an average little girl is?
  • In Twilight, Edward mentions something to this effect...

Edward: You have no idea how delicate you are. I could reach out, meaning to touch your face, and crush your skull by mistake.

    • Bella gets this in the fourth book because brand new vampires are so damn strong. She hugs Edward and actually hurts him, something nearly impossible to do to Twilight vampires. Emmett, widely regarded as by far the strongest Cullen, is completely overpowered in the weeks immediately after Bella's transformation.
  • In What Fire Cannot Burn by John Ridley, Mutants with Super Strength do their best to avert this, but they must concentrate to avoid applying a little too much force. "Your sweaty nightmare -- 'Hey, do you want to hold the baby?'"
  • The Six Million Dollar Man: Steve Austin accidentally broke a man's wrist in the original book. Ironically, it was right after that man figured out that Austin's bionic hand had developed a feedback that would allow him to judge how much pressure he was exerting—once he got used to it.
  • Lennie from Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is another example of this trope, breaking the neck of a doggy by petting it too hard.
    • That's hardly the worst thing he (unintentionally) does. He also breaks Curly's wife's neck, leading to his Mercy Kill at the hands of George and one hell of a Downer Ending.
    • Curley picks a fight with Lennie; it doesn't end well for Curley. Lennie's scared to fight back, but once he does, all Lennie needs to do to stop Curley is squeeze his hand so hard that Lennie breaks his bones.
  • Derek Souza in Darkest Powers is a werewolf with an incredible protective streak over the people he cares about, which leads him to do such things as throwing another boy into a wall and breaking his back, nearly tossing Chloe across a room while merely trying to keep her from stomping off, and breaking Liam's neck, killing him - and all of this completely on accident.
    • Granted, nearly all of the main characters with the exception of Simon could probably fit under this trope, as their DNA has been tweaked, thus making their individual abilities much, much, much stronger than usual and leading to random outbursts of power. Most notably Chloe's accidentally raising the dead in her sleep, Derek's already mentioned feats, and Liz's telekinetic tantrum right before she is taken away and murdered because she cannot control her powers.
  • The magic version is used in the Tortall Universe. Most wizards can put out a candle by magic; if Numair tried it he'd just cause an explosion.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • The Price Is Right: On numerous occasions, overly excited contestants who were Samoans would pick him up, bearhug him, and otherwise get very affectionate with him, causing him brief physical discomfort. Often, but not always, these instances occurred after the contestant won a pricing game. A running joke was that, every time a Samoan contestant appeared on the show, he would claim that a past Samoan contestant injured him (before playfully admonishing the new contestant to keep her distance).[context?]
  • This trope was formerly named "Ace Lightning Syndrome", after the titular character in the CGI-animated TV program Ace Lightning, who had quite the tendency towards smashing his human sidekicks' household appliances when he arrived in the 'real world', super strength and all (not to mention his need to absorb energy in order to survive resulted in the destruction of much electrical equipment. And apparently Mark's family's electric bill was costing them a fortune).
  • In short-lived UPN super-spy show Jake 2.0, the main character mostly dodged this because his powers were mostly by activation; nevertheless, there was at least one occasion where his little brother pissed him off, resulting in him accidentally breaking off the handle to his car door.
    • He also put a ton of holes in the walls of his apartment trying to gently tap in nails.
  • Sometimes a problem for The Greatest American Hero.
  • Played with on Charmed when a spell cast on their police buddy gave him Superman-like strength and invulnerability. Has him accidentally ripping the door off a police cruiser, but only mildly bruising the suspect.
  • A sight gag in one episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer has the title character accidentally smash her alarm clock with her super strength, then sweep the pieces into a drawer of likewise broken alarm clocks.
    • This gag was surprisingly rare throughout the Buffy series. One of the only other examples is found in the fourth-season story "The Initiative" when Buffy, in the college cafeteria, accidentally tears the handle off a yogurt machine and makes a mess... all in full view of her future boyfriend, Riley Finn.
    • There are however several occasions when Buffy hugs someone too hard and has to be told to let go.
    • Played with later in the fourth season in "A New Man", where Giles awakens one morning as a large and powerful demon after being cursed by Ethan Rayne. He walks through his home and accidentally tears the banister off of his stairs, smashes a phone when he tries to call for help, rips through his favorite shirt, and breaks the front door off its hinges. The irony of course is that Giles is normally a mild-mannered British librarian.
    • Used dramatically in the episode where Buffy discovers her mother's body, and breaks her ribs trying to perform CPR. Granted, her mother was dead by that time anyway.
      • Doesn't really count (or maybe is a Real Life example) as mere mortal performing CPR properly commonly break ribs. Same goes for the Heimlich maneuver, but a few broken ribs are better than the alternative.
    • In the episode when she moves into her new dorm, Buffy snaps a pencil in half by nervously fidgeting with it.
    • When Buffy glomps the surgeon who tells her Joyce's operation was a success, his ribs creak ominously and he shouts in pain.
  • Notably averted with Data of Star Trek: The Next Generation, as he has super strength, but refrains from using it most of the time. The one time he uses it unchecked, his friends realize he's Not Himself. He's actually having his brain messed with by Evil Twin Lore.
    • In one episode, a Klingon captain confronts Data concerning his renowned strength and wants to test his own strength against him. It was one of the few times when Data was in complete control and you could see how much he outclassed any humanoid. It was hilarious!
    • In another episode, the holodeck malfunctioned replacing characters in a Wild West simulation with recreations of Data, with his approximate physical abilities as well. Some of the characters were weasly cowards and were otherwise unaware of their enhanced strength, but others were the Big Bad of the story and also unaware of their strength.
      • Don't forget the last Data who was a female saloon owner who throws herself into Worf's arms after he defeated the evil gunmen. Although that was something else entirely.
  • Eun Bi, an ex-high school delinquent, from Flower Boy Ramyun Shop says this after playfully hitting Ba Wool around the back of the head and he comments that it really hurts.
  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Worf (yes, that Worf) relates a story of when he was 13, playing soccer and accidentally headbutting a player on the opposing team. Since Klingons are much stronger than humans and have ridged foreheads, the other kid's neck was snapped and died of his injuries shortly after.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Amok Time", we get a look at how strong Vulcans really are when Spock loses control and manages to completely destroy his computer terminal. Other times when Spock loses control he becomes really scary because of it.
  • Early on, Kintaros from Kamen Rider Den-O suffered from this, or at least K-Ryotaro/K-Masaru(first possessee), breaking everything from park benches to lamp posts.
  • In Smallville, in one episode Clark has his memories removed, resulting in him ripping the door to his home from its hinges as he literally doesn't know his own strength.
  • In Lois and Clark, after being exposed to red kryptonite, Clark's strength gets boosted, but when he hugs Lois, it gives her bruises on her arms.
  • In Caprica, this is how Zoey Greystone killed her early Love Interest Philomon. Had some terribly bad consequences.
  • Katie from Power Rangers Time Force is of at least partial alien descent; as a result she possesses superhuman strength. She's also fond of hugging her teammates.
  • This happens in an episode of Stargate SG-1. Jack, Sam, and Daniel are all equipped with an alien wristband that enhances the wearer's speed and strength, if only for a limited amount of time. In the episode, Jack crushes a grip-meter and accidentally takes a chunk out of General Hammond's wall just by lazily kicking it.
    • The trio are also really hungry and eat a total of 10-11 steaks between them.
    • They also manage to knock out about a dozen guys in a bar fight.


Mythology[edit | hide]

  • In Greek mythology, Herakles/Hercules got very annoyed with his music teacher, Linus, for telling him he was playing music wrong. So Heracles slugged Linus with his lyre, or with a stool... and killed him. Oops. The first evidence of thist story is in vase-paintings of the 5th century BC, making this one Older Than Feudalism.
    • In another version, Linus slugged Hercules first. When Hercules was on trial, he was acquitted on the grounds that "everybody has a right to return a slug".
    • Many of his enemies would use Mind Control to make him angry enough to smash his wife/kids/best friends/cities and then feel so guilty about it he'd go on a near-suicidal adventure in order to atone for it.
      • What mind control? Most of the legends have Herc really being like that.
      • Depends on the myth. Some versions often had Hera induce these wraths.
      • The gods and goddesses of Greek myth wobbled back and forth from being actual physical gods and being embodiments of abstract ideas, depending on who you asked. So there's a thin line between an artificial wrath brought on by Hera's mind control and a natural wrath that gets associated with Hera because Hera, goddess of marriage who is married to the biggest Casanova in the Greek pantheon, is the living embodiment of jealous rage.
  • Ilia Muromets, one of Russian legendary heroes, was superstrong, and sometimes hurt people by things like hugging. It didn't help that he just didn't bother to get up until age 32, so he hadn't practiced social interaction much.
    • Another hero, Svyatogor, was literally so strong the earth refused to hold him and was thus confined to a mountain range which was somewhat less finicky.
      • Some variations of the Muromets story have him receive super strength, and immediately having half of it drained away so that he won't end up like Svyatogor.
    • Vasiliy Buslaev, a hero of the Novgorod epic cycle, is a young ne'er-do-well who doesn't realize his insane strength. This leads to people's arms and legs being casually ripped off.
  • In the Finnish epic The Kalevala, this trope is Kullervo's shtick. For every task he is given to do, he always does it "according to his strength," not according to what the task requires, so he ruins whatever he attempts.


Puppet Shows[edit | hide]

  • Played for laughs in The Muppet Show episode starring Christopher Reeves (way before his accident). The guest star is explaining to Miss Piggy that he wasn't at all chosen for the role of Superman on account of his strength... while accidentally tearing apart a cupboard door. Miss Piggy's reaction: "Yeah, right..."


Radio[edit | hide]

  • Joshua Oliphant in Revolting People, who tears the house to bits by accident, and wrestles bears to death while trying to make friends with them. Played for Laughs, obviously.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • In The Dresden Files RPG, near the write-up for the Supernatural Strength power, Harry writes in the margins that it's really easy to accidentally kill someone with a simple punch at this power level.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • While just about everyone in Disgaea has ridiculous DBZ-levels of Super Strength, only Flonne's shown some difficulty in controlling it: at one point, she hastily shoves Laharl away (to prevent him from performing Percussive Maintenance on poor Mr. DVD Player) and ends up rocketing him across the room.
  • A trailer for Deus Ex Human Revolution has Jensen accidently cracking a glass as he tries to hold it with one of his new cybernetic arms.
  • Flandre Scarlet of the "Touhou" series possesses extreme physical strength and the ability to destroy anything, except she does not know how to control it. In fact, she was locked away in a basement for 495 years as a result of her unstable and potential destructibility.


Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • A common flaw in Magellan Academy, since most of the students are superpowered and in training. A particularly noteworthy case would be the superstrong but not invulnerable Justine Kef, strong enough to lift massive weights but with normal human bone structure. She can break herself if she uses too much strength outside of her super suit.
  • In this Sluggy Freelance strip, while Aylee's getting used to being Torg's secretary, she tends to accidentally drive her fingers right through the computer keyboard.
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob, when Bob briefly gains Super Strength, he manages to stop a bank robbery... but accidentally destroys the bank in the process.
  • In Order of the Stick, the Monster In The Darkness exhibits this trope, as demonstrated here.
    • Possibly slightly averted - The MITD DOES know it's super strong (why else think of a game "who can hit the lightest"), it just still can't control its strength...
  • In Tales of the Questor, this happens as an one off joke when Quentyn reunites with his friend, Kestral at her engineering school. She gives him a big hug and inadvertently hurts him because her vigorous studies having increased her strength considerably and she is not yet fully in control of it.
  • Sidney Burns of Mob Ties displays this occasionally.
  • Summer Mighty of Everyday Heroes has trouble controlling her new-found strength, resulting in a kitchen remodel.
  • Spinnerette: Not as bad as most, but Heather's still getting used to her new strength, as well as having six arms, as seen when she bear hugs Sahira.
  • The first time Walky and Joyce have sex in It's Walky!, they wreck most of the furniture in their hotel room. As one of the hotel employees says, "Man of steel, woman of steel, bed of Kleenex."
  • Equius of Homestuck would like to use bows and arrows as his Weapon of Choice, but can't actually wield them without the bow snapping like a twig when he draws it. The only safe outlet for him to let off his frustration is through beating the shit out of robots in cage matches.
    • He also loves drinking milk. It's too bad he can't pick up a glass of it without shattering it in his hand.


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Common problem in the Whateley Universe: Phase can change her density from intangible to super-dense. When she first manifested, she smashed her bathroom, bent her tub, and then went light and couldn't stop sinking through the floor. One of the things Whateley Academy teaches is control of powers. The bricks routinely have assignments like carrying a raw egg around to learn control.
    • Probably a better example than Phase (who for all her worrying has remarkable fine control over her powers already) would be Compiler, a girl who used her mutant gift for nanotechnology to give herself the superhuman strength and speed her mutation itself failed to provide and that she hasn't quite learned to keep from activating purely by accident yet.
    • Another good example is Diz Aster, who is a Brick along the same lines as Lancer - except that her telekinetic field can't produce anything less than 7 tons of force. This also means that she can't even feel anything, since her shields extend to a few millimetres past her skin; by the time Chaka starts helping out, it's been a year since anyone's been able to touch Diz—or since she's been able to touch anyone else.
    • An equally good example might be Tennyo—whose powers include the ability to throw around beams of energy that flood the area around her with radiation. Since Tennyo herself is immune to the effects of her powers, she's rarely aware of what's happening until it's too late. This got Lampshaded in a chapter of The Great Shoulder Angel Conspiracy, where the instructors for Team Tactics pointed out that Tennyo can't just throw radiation-heavy energy around wildly without noticing if she wants the rescue mission to be a success... so they gave her a belt-attachable radiation detector, so that she can keep an eye on the levels she's putting out.
  • Alfred, the Bison construction worker from Darwin's Soldiers, possesses extreme strength. Most of the time he is in control of it but if he is angry then things tend to get destroyed. For instance, he crushed a piece of concrete that he was planning to use as an Improvised Weapon. A more extreme example was when he started pounding on Aisha's door and leaves the door looking like someone had taken a sledgehammer to it. And he accidentally knocked over a vending machine while trying to free a stuck snack.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • The Tick (animation) had a tendency to leave crumbling footprints embedded in the roofs of buildings whenever he went Roof Hopping.
    • The live-action series has a gag where Arthur shakes hands with the Champion, and Arthur clutches his hand in pain, then the Tick shakes hands with the Champion and the Champion recoils in pain.
    • The Tick has done the door thing, too. And generally causes massive amounts of collateral damage. It isn't that he is unused to his strength so much as that he's clumsy, insane and not very bright.
      • And Nigh Invulnerable, so he doesn't necessarily notice if he bangs his head on a doorframe hard enough to put a hole in the wall.
  • Bulkhead of Transformers Animated has this problem fairly often, in no small part to being the biggest Autobot and in a world much too small for him. In an online short, he's shown causing gale-force winds to blow away a park full of people just by applauding.
    • In Transformers Prime, Bulkhead says that the Autobots know both when to use force and how much to use... and breaks some of Ratchet's equipment by way of demonstration. "Hey, I NEEDED that!" Unlike Animated Bulkhead, this version isn't clumsy but it's implied that he still heavily restrains himself because even among Cybertronians he is an abnormally big and powerful bot. Part of his relationship with Miko is her encouraging him to unleash his strength when necessary.
  • Mr. Strong on The Mr. Men Show. His Catch Phrase always comes up after an incident involving his strength: "Aw, I barely touched it."
  • The Justice League episode "Just a Dream" referenced this trope. When Dr. Destiny traps Superman in his worst nightmare, said nightmare involves Superman losing control of his strength and accidentally crushing Jimmy Olson to death when he tries to hug him.
    • Of course, Superman's World of Cardboard Speech in the grand finale mentions that he's constantly holding himself back, for fear of hurting those around him.
  • The infant Bamm-Bamm on The Flintstones. Later spinoffs (that feature Bamm-Bamm as a child, teenager or adult) usually show him as fully aware of/in control of his strength.
  • Kim Possible had a few of these moments when she briefly ended up with the Super Strength of Hego, a Superman Expy.
  • The animated spinoff of Disney's Hercules focuses on Herc's teen years and has this as a running gag.
  • Teen Titans's Starfire is an alien from a planet where everybody has superstrength, resulting, when she comes to Earth, in a world-of-cardboard effect as Superman described it (not the trope). Particularly unfortunate as she fond of hugging her friends.
  • Derpy Hooves. She's also The Klutz.


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • There's a nervous system disorder that prevents people from telling quite how much pressure they're applying to something—though unless they're ridiculously strong, it's rarely ever a problem.
    • Or unless they're handling something light and delicate, like paper or a neurosurgical operation.
  • Though nowhere near as extreme in fiction, can happen with some people devoid of any nervous disorders. Common with young men who are just realizing that they've suddenly gained a bunch of muscle mass.
  • And athletes. It's not uncommon for water polo players to under-estimate their strength and over-estimate the other player's strength, and dunk someone/give them a nosebleed/really hurt someone without realizing it.
  • Basketball player Charles Barkley once hugged a teammate into the emergency room. WHOOPS!
  • Humans don't actually have perfect control over their bodies—anyone who has ever tried to do any very delicate work could attest to that. At a low enough level, controlling your own strength can be hard.
    • Not to mention that the perceived weight of an object can be very different from the actual weight in terms of expectations. For example, picking up a gallon of milk expecting it to be full only to find out that it is nearly empty. It can make almost anyone feel like Superman.
    • The inverse is also true; if you see something presumably made of plastic or another light material and don't know that it's actually solid wood or metal, you'll either drop it or (depending on the object's size) be unable to pick it up.
      • It's fun to trick other people with this, handing them a heavy object using just one outstretched arm or a light object while holding it like it's really heavy. Luggage tends to be perfect for this, since it can basically have any weight.
  • Beyonslay may fit this trope. Look at what she did to Rice Rocket!
  • People who hit their growth period before their peers can exhibit this.
  • Scientists are currently working on robots that are made of soft materials, because hard ones are not equipped to handle delicate objects. Really hoping it wasn't some kind of medical/child device that led them to this conclusion.
  • Sadly, lots of small children learn this the hard way with their first pet.
  • Individuals with disorders like autism or frequent seizures can be abnormally strong, which is why you either get a half dozen people to help sedate one who is out of control or you have one try to gentle calm them down.
  • In athletics in general someone may see their physical strength improve with regards to one specific area (like weight training) only to not realize how it translates into another sport. Thus you start playing basketball and suddenly shoot the ball over the backboard. Or a friend starts to playfully wrestle with you and you lift them off the ground.