Superman is generally shown in most appearances with a single iconic physique: buff as hell. He's also super-crazy-ultra-mega-strong. But as any fan knows, the two aren't generally related: he draws his strength from the light of the yellow sun, and his strength has much more to do with this effect than with his actual musculature.

But do his muscles come into play at all? In those rare instances where Superman is shown with other physiques (such as his emaciated Flashpoint appearance), is his strength affected at all? Has he ever been shown to benefit from working out, or have different capabilities based on his biological fitness?

Or is his strength and endurance completely a function of his Kryptonian idiosyncrasies, and utterly separated from his athletic status?

Edit: Apparently the site wants me to edit this question to justify why it shouldn't be closed, but Mooz nailed it with his comment: "strength" is different from "physique." I don't care what he looks like, I'm talking about whether his biological strength is at all relevant to his Kryptonian-power strength.

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    Small correction: superman is super-mega-ultra-crazy-strong. This is an important detail that is often overlooked. ;)
    – Lexible
    Mar 16, 2015 at 22:05
  • Good question! I've always wondered why he's buff at all: if he never uses his muscles, he should look average at best, or atrophied at worst.
    – Liesmith
    Mar 16, 2015 at 22:14
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    @Liesmith Apparently that was the inspiration for his softer, almost pudgy design in All-Star Superman (example). How is he supposed to "work out"?
    – Nerrolken
    Mar 16, 2015 at 22:32
  • Related to scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/17121/… Mar 16, 2015 at 23:26
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    Leaving open as 'physique' and 'strength' are two different things.
    – Möoz
    Mar 17, 2015 at 3:21

2 Answers 2


Aside from rare outliers, Superman's strength is completely a function of his Kryptonian powers separated from his athletic status.

The easiest means of confirming this is the strength of other Kryptonians under Earth's Sun.

In many variations, Zod is past middle age, a contemporary of Jor-El, meaning if Kal-El is 25 to 35, Zod is anywhere from his mid 40s to early 60s. Likewise, many renditions of Kara Zor-El have her as a slight teenaged female. In Kurt Busiek's "The Third Kryptonian" story-arc, a silver-haired female Kryptonian generations older than Kal-El sends him to Tokyo with a single punch. In any of these cases, if strength was a function of their natural physicality, then Superman would automatically have an edge over either one.

However, typically Zod is nearly an equal and to the up-roar of a certain sect of Superman fandom, in the 2000's, Kara was allegedly stronger than Superman (even if there was wiggle room to interpret it as situational).

Ultimately, even if there is some influence based on their natural physique, that influence is nominal compared to what they gain in super powers under the right spectrum.


It's unfair to compare him to Zod or Kara. Most renditions of Zod have him to be genetically bred to be a soldier, so he will be a badass into his eighties like Harrison Ford. And I remember a story where someone compared Krytonians to Tyranosaurus Rex, where females were genetically superior (citation needed)

And the answer is yes, his muscles are important. 1 he used a gravity machine to workout in "H'el on Earth" (new 52) and 2. He needs them to look godlike because writers need to portray him as such.

  • Hi. Your previous answer identidcal to this was deleted. Likely because this answer is speculative, and SciFi.SE answers are expected to have canonical references. Speculation based on author intent and other creatures from other canons generally aren't accepted.
    – Zibbobz
    Mar 17, 2015 at 15:27
  • Sorry, I did know you could edit a post and I meant to put "superior " instead of "supportive " Mar 17, 2015 at 15:55
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    There are still a few problems with this answer. For one, Zod is only mentioned in another person's answer, so trying to explain this in your answer is not relevant. For another, unless you remember the exact story the speculation about Tyranosaurs is just that - speculation. Your point about the New 52 gravity machine training is good, and the desire of the writers could be a good answer, but this question is clearly asking for an in-canon reason.
    – Zibbobz
    Mar 17, 2015 at 16:04
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    @Zibbobz The other answer was deleted because it was literally the same as this one. It was a double post, so one was deleted.
    – user1027
    Mar 17, 2015 at 16:13
  • Should we consider new 52 canon? Mar 17, 2015 at 17:00

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