So, here was a guy who landed on our planet a small baby, went to school a normal kid, with normal looks, no difference from his peers externally. Now, here he is, can lift the whole Empire State building with one hand, and lift planets with two hands with little effort.

Curious thing is, as an adult, he is almost always portrayed as one hell of a Hunk; well built, Ronnie Coleman/Hulk style physiques. So, can someone tell me when the guy ever went to the gym? How and when did he gain so much muscle and mass yet he can lift every possible weight on earth with a finger or hand? Or is it the Yellow Sun?

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    I just don't see what answer you expect. The out-of-universe answers are obvious (expectations, heroism, sales). The in-universe answer is "that's how he looks". Mar 7, 2018 at 18:09
  • You're trying to extrapolate from human how a Kryptonite's physiology works. There's no reason to think that's valid. Maybe Kryptonites develop muscles from any exercise, even it's not strenuous. Maybe they don't need exercise at all. Mar 7, 2018 at 21:24
  • Yeah, I love when Superman lifted that ship and said "Light weight, light weight babbyyy"
    – Möoz
    Mar 7, 2018 at 21:28
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    Doesn't seem an exact dupe to me. The proposed dupe (and its answers) address whether exercise is necessary for Superman to be fit. This question asks whether he needs exercise to appear muscular.
    – Blackwood
    Mar 7, 2018 at 22:21
  • This is not a duplicate. The proposed dupe questions IF he needs exercise to keep fit. This asks WHY he appears fit yet has not been shown to do any exercises (before the accepted answer)
    – Peter
    Mar 8, 2018 at 4:13

2 Answers 2


The out-of-universe explanation is that the original design of the character was based on circus strongmen (thus the tights and underwear on the outside combo), and he wasn't portrayed as strong as he eventually became. "Being able to pick up a small car" doesn't mean he could easily pick up anything else, so exercising to be even stronger makes sense. Of course, this made no sense by the Silver Age when he had obscene amounts of power and had such since he was a baby, but at that point the design of him had pretty much been set.

The other explanation is that most artists had one standard "heroic build" that they used for pretty much any character, so it didn't matter what their powerset was. There's no reason Hal Jordan should be built like a strongman either; test pilots may be fit but they generally don't look like bodybuilders.

In universe, the idea that's been around since the 1980s is that Superman didn't have all his power right from the start; it took time to develop as he grew up, and part of that maturation process was to become extremely fit as he physically developed, and he could have been pushing his limits as his powers grew, so by the time his powers reached the point where pushing himself to improve became silly, his body had already developed.

The last possibility isn't one I can recall seeing, but it's probably been used: Kal-El comes from a planet with high technology, including biological sciences. It's possible being so developed is simply in his genes and Kryptonians engineered themselves to look that way.

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    "...reached the point where pushing himself to improve became silly..." this cracked me up
    – Peter
    Mar 7, 2018 at 18:33

You sort of answered your own question. Yes, the yellow sun makes him the most powerful being on Earth and his muscles still get a work out from use. His muscles are denser than ours and he doesn't tire easily so it will take much heavier objects, but he will build muscle like anyone else.

He's been lifting cars since he was a toddler, accidentally jumping over houses and doing all the chores on a farm by himself (moving bales of hay, chopping wood etc). So that's how he got buff.

In the TV show Superman: the adventures of Lois and Clark, he would wake up in the morning and do thousands of high speed pushups. So he feels he needs to "stay in shape"; even though he's Superman.

  • Jumping over houses and lifting stuff for him is like chopping wood for normal people. It only get you so far. Even pushups can only get you as far as probably Frank Medrano, but getting to his current size requires far more physical exertion than he could ever get with what you just described. Even Frank still goes to the gym to keep his current physique, yet he's only half as big.
    – Peter
    Mar 7, 2018 at 18:14
  • I'm going to shimmy in an answer of sorts thru this loop hole. (apologies) WHEN: In comics, we get to see some heroes train incessantly but other heroes never "hit the gym". Why some and not others? I dunno. So, not seeing Superman skip rope "on camera" is not odd. HOW: In any version of the Fortress of Solitude, there is always a room duplicating Krypton. Simulated red sun, gravity and other conditions lets Superman go for a full-body workout with normal equipment. WHY: In Superman's career, he can never know when crazy shenanigans will remove his powers. Be prepared!
    – Blaze
    Oct 22, 2018 at 17:24

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