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Or am I just overthinking it?

Maybe I should note that the character is like 76% magical entity, so maybe it can simply be handwaved, but I wanna check if I can blend in some science in there, too. To clarify, I am looking for a reason for him NOT to be super-strong, but if it's unavoidable then meh.

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    $\begingroup$ Neo in the Matrix can't lift a car but in Reloaded he flew across the street at mach 3, the sonic boom knocks all the cars into the air! Of course he can bleed! but somehow he doesn't seemed to need any heat shield maybe 76% magic helps explain it ;D $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Commented Dec 14, 2021 at 2:02
  • $\begingroup$ @user6760 Couldn't he? I mean, when he jumps up to fly he literally leaves a crater in the pavement. Agents certainly crush and flip cars just jumping off of them. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Dec 14, 2021 at 5:27
  • $\begingroup$ I've removed the biology tag. Once you get into super-powers, real biology becomes irrelevant. $\endgroup$ Commented yesterday

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They could be super light.

But in the regular sense of super speed, super acceleration is part of the package so if they had normal mass, they would have super strength and need to be super tough (or die).

The only physical way around super strength and toughness it is if their muscles were capable of very fast speeds but unimpressive accelerations. In which case they would need a lot of time to spool up, which is a problem when human limbs have limited ranges of motion so always need to change direction. So they would just seem like a normal person...unless on a bike maybe or swinging your arms in a circle?

But if magic entity? You can ignore it or make them super light if they have mass at all.

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  • $\begingroup$ Exactly how physically tough would he need to be? Like if he were as fast as Type I on this chart according to the Superpower Wiki powerlisting.fandom.com/wiki/Peak_Human_Speed/Supernatural would it make sense for him to be Type I strength according to this page's chart as well? powerlisting.fandom.com/wiki/Peak_Human_Strength/Supernatural $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 14, 2021 at 21:22
  • $\begingroup$ @CAPichowsky It depends on how much he weighs and how quickly he can accelerate and decelerate. He needs to be able to not snap his bones, tear tendons or muscles, give himself concussions, black out, bruise, get pressure induced heart attacks or suffocation, not explode eyeballs, etc. It's mainly about acceleration. It only becomes about speed when you involve drag due to air and things like that. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Dec 14, 2021 at 21:23
  • $\begingroup$ @CAPichowsky Note that no vehicle made of any known material can survive decelerating from operating speed to standstill in the distances and time frames of human limbs. To do so at supersonic speeds would probably require unobtanium limbs. To accelerate on foot from stand-still to 600km (the low end of your Type 1 speed) over 20m, or to accelerate a limb the same way over 1m requires an acceleration of 13,778m/s^2 if the person weighs 160lbs/73kg person and their arm is 5% their body weight. That's enough force to lift 5 tons. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Dec 14, 2021 at 21:51
  • $\begingroup$ @CAPichowsky At the high end of your Type 1 speed, 6000km/h, the speed is 10x larger and the acceleration 100x larger and now he could lift 500 tons. For the most part, he wouldn't even feel bullets and shrug off cannon shells. The square relationship means that he's only Type 1 strength at the low end and very quickly gets into Type 2 strength. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Dec 14, 2021 at 22:08
  • $\begingroup$ If they are just super light, they will not be able to maintain traction or have any inertia with which to push through the air. This might get a fat guy up to runner body speeds, but with weight reduction alone, I'm sceptical that you could even reach peak human performance, much less superhuman speeds. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented yesterday
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Temporal Distortion:

If a semi-magical being has super-speed, the simplest way to achieve it magically and not physically is to distort the flow of time. The effect is one where the character experiences reality at a different pace, with their motions slogging through a thick atmosphere.

But while super-strength might make it EASIER to move even faster, the individual would be generating heat that would be hard to disperse, eating food that will be hard to consume (or possibly digest), and breathing air that will either be hard to breath or won't disperse from around the person and will tend to create a sort of anoxic effect the more they exert their metabolism.

I suspect the effect would be a bit like climbing a hot mount Everest, with overheating and "thin" thick air. You'd need to justify super-strength by magical means, and the metabolic consequences would be high. A "normal" super-strong being with "normal" super-speed would burn out from the consequences of using their muscles in such a super-speed environment. So pushing through the slow reality might seem putzy, but if time is distorted, it simply becomes a matter of exerting force over time, rather than vast amounts of force to overcome resistance.

I would see the difference like superman versus the Flash in the Justice League scene where Superman has just been revived. Superman is using the vast application of force to achieve his goals, while the Flash seems to shift the flow of time to move "slowly" to him, but insanely fast to others.

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They Compress Space as they Move

In general, there are 3 ways to move fast:

  1. You can be super strong and tough which allows you to power through things quickly, but the OP already invalidated this option.
  2. You can slow down time so that to everyone else you seem to be moving really fast, but from you own perspective you are just moving around. While this gets the job done, it's also a really sucky super power from the perspective of the super hero. Imagine trying to run across the city to save the day. Sure, you could do it in a fraction of a second, but from your own perspective... you just ran across the whole damn city.
  3. The last option is to compress space as you move. In either of the other scenarios, you have to take thousands of steps just to travel a few km meaning you have to mentally process the whole experience, but if you just compress space, then you can turn each city block into a single foot step. This succeeds in not making you super strong because anything in your way you would interact with as though it has a super high density and inertia. Air resistance will of course also become a compounding issue; so, there will be a bit of an upper limit for how much you can compress and move through space here on Earth before the air starts get too hard to displace... but there is also an interesting side-effect here that you could actually fly by swimming through a compressed atmosphere, so that would be neat.

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