Superhuman strength

Superhuman strength is an ability commonly invoked in fiction and other literary works such as mythology. It is the power to exert force and lift weights beyond what is physically possible for a human. It is a fictionalized representation of the phenomenon of hysterical strength. Alternate pronunciations or descriptions of superhuman strength have included enhanced strength, super-strength, and increased strength. Superhuman strength is an amorphous ability, varying in potency depending on the writer or the context of the story in which it is depicted.

Characters and deities with superhuman strength have been found in multiple ancient mythological accounts and religions.

Superhuman strength is a common trope in fantasy and science fiction. This is generally by means of mechanisms such as cybernetic body parts, genetic modification, telekinetic fields in science fiction, or magical/supernatural sources within fantasy. A plethora of comic book superheroes and super-villains display some degree of super strength. Some films invoke a fictional substance or drug that gives the superpower. The level of strength portrayed can vary greatly, from just outside the "normal" human range of the strongest weightlifters (e.g. unarmored Master Chief or Captain America), to nearly unlimited strength (e.g. Hulk, Superman, Supergirl, Wonder Woman, Thor, Hercules or Goku).

Humans are actively trying to achieve superhuman strength via technology and scientific experimentation. Athletes have turned to various methods to improve performance, such as blood doping or taking anabolic steroids. Other technologies being researched are robotic exoskeletons to be worn by humans to enhance movement and strength.


Superhuman strength is a common ability of many gods and demigods in ancient mythology, such as Hercules/Heracles (Roman/Greek), Beowulf (Norse), Karna (Hindu) and Achilles (Greek). Attempts to modify the human body in order to gain extraordinary strength is common throughout history, as seen in fiction through characters such as Terminator, Robocop, Iron Man and Cyborg.

Humans have tried to enhance their strength through the use of substances. Accordingly, “In ancient Rome, gladiators would drink herbal infusions to strengthen them before chariot races.” Currently, drugs including stimulants, anabolic steroids, diuretics and β-blockers are ingested to enhance strength and other attributes.[1]

Humans have tried to use external devices to enhance their strength. The earliest device that was patented for this specific purpose can be credited to Nicholas Yagn, who filed the patent in 1890. The device was described to be an “apparatus for facilitating walking, running, and jumping” through the use of bags of compressed air.[2] The United States Department of Defense is considering a variety of technologies to create an exoskeleton intended for military use to enhance soldier performance.[3]

Hercules and the Hydra (ca. 1475) by Antonio del Pollaiuolo. The hero is known for his strength.
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