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So I was thinking the other day. We all know the muscles in our body twitch and make microscopic movements invisible to us every day, and quite frequently. Microsaccades in the eyes are just one example of everyday muscle movement we don't control and aren't aware of.

Then I got to thinking. If you had the sort of superheroic strength that could topple buildings like Superman and other flying bricks, how devastating would these normally invisible muscle movements be? Would every involuntary twitch create shockwaves like your mighty punches? Would the beating of your heart be enough to create deadly overpressure that would cause internal bleeding or organ damage in anyone that gets too close to you? Essentially, when you become super strong, does your body's involuntary movements make you into a walking disaster area, like a human bomb?

I'd really like to know what everyone thinks about this and if my estimates are wrong, how strong a superhero would need to be just to kill someone with muscle spasms or their heartbeat?

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  • $\begingroup$ Sneezing and reflex reactions, or trying to do anything would be worse. $\endgroup$ – Donald Hobson Sep 18 '16 at 20:57
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Many Superpowers have required secondary poweres. For super-strength this list reads (emphasis mine):

Super Strength - Many characters with super-strength also have super anchoring abilities. This keeps them from being shoved into the ground when they lift up something remarkably heavy, like buildings or land masses. An ability to fly such as Superman's - the ability to support and move your own body in empty space as you wish - could do the trick, as you wouldn't need the ground to support you. A common subversion is a hero that lacks this anchoring ability, thereby heavily restricting what they can lift without sending themselves up to their waist in the ground.

Also, characters that are super-strong but not explicitly Nigh Invulnerable have some level of enhanced resistance in their bones. If their super-powerful muscles were anchored by normal bones, the bones would repeatedly be broken apart by the muscles' exertion (or just constantly pulled off the anchor points, resulting in rather horrific sprains). This is not to even say anything about things like punching through stone.

To use super strength effectively also requires the ability to strengthen objects by touching them (unless the object is made of some advanced material, of course). Otherwise, holding up (for example) an airplane with one hand would simply result in a hand-shaped hole in the still-plummeting airplane.

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Muscles work in tandem with opposing muscles in something called antagonistic muscle action. Muscles on the inside of the forearm contract the fingers in the hand for example, while muscles on the outside contract to open the fingers of the hand. Inequalities in the strength of these muscles lead to painful imbalances and injuries. Even involuntary muscles movements are balanced out by this though, so I don't think they'd be as devastating as you might think (I'll get to that).

Where someone's who's super strong needs to be careful is accidentally using super strength on mundane tasks, like using a computer. Lose your temper at Windows and you may well slam your fist through the table, or punch a hole through a supporting wall and bring the roof down on your head.

Since the body is mostly fluid, even a very powerful heartbeat will be contained within the body. All body tissues would need to be strengthened to withstand the impacts of heightened strength of the muscles, so I envision very normal operating of bodily functions. What we consider a heartbeat is really the pumping of blood (like a water pump) which creates displacement of fluids. Each pump moves blood and this creates dilation of arteries. This dilation is what you can feel, and each pump you can hear is the displacement of that fluid. For a super heartbeat you'd need 'super' blood. So this blood would probably be thicker than normal and denser (more blood cells). Thus it should function like a 'normal' heartbeat for a normal person.

As for shockwaves, these are caused by the displacement of air. Large and fast displacement (like a bomb) causes large shockwaves, while small and slow displacement is barely noticeable (like waving your hand in front of your face). Super strength will not change the volume of air displaced, nor will it increase the speed of that displacement. So a micro-movement won't cause devastating shockwaves at all.

However, there is a great video on what it would be like if Superman punched you at superspeed.

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Essentially this is more about the mechanisms responsible for super-powers as in this case super-strength. The question assumes that the super-strength of someone Superman is purely due to his possessing super-powered musculature and a correspondingly super-powered physiology and anatomy with its various quirks and properties.

Superman shall be considered as our typical example. Frankly super-powered musculature exerts all known properties of biological matter and physiology. Although the earliest incarnation of Superman, circa 1938, comes closest to being possible, but even this version of Superman exceeds reasonable bounds that could be achieved by any incredibly strong organism.

Consider the fact that Superman can pass among ordinary human beings, as Clark Kent without any sign of causing catastrophic damage. Also, he doesn't any tendency to bounce up into the air as if he was walking on, what for him, would be an extremely low gravity planet.

This suggests that Superman must be able to turn his super-strength on and off only as required. This will enable him to all those Clark Kent things without raising any suspicion about his true identity. This also suggests that the source of his super-strength may well be a kind of force-field. Considering Superman's invulnerability can be explained by his generating a force-field it isn't much of a stretch that his super-strength is also due to either a modified operation of this force-field or a complementary force-field in its own right.

Note: the force-field concept furthermore explains Superman's ability to lift buildings, ships, aircraft and even catch falling human beings without any of those structures falling or breaking apart when he does so.

Superheroes who are masses of super-muscles in the conventional sense will be a menace to those around them. But that limitation is due a failure of imagination on the part of their creators. However, the majority of super-strong superheroes function in a way similar to Superman. It has been established that Superman's super-strength cannot simply be due to his having super-muscles, and there must be a controllable mechanism responsible for many of his super-powers including his super-strength.

You may relax, comic book fans, your favourite superheroes aren't walking disaster areas due to uncontrolled aspects of their super-strength.

Note: DC Comics has tried to explain Superman's invulnerability being due to a bio-energy field, but that's just too ridiculous.

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  • $\begingroup$ Why is a "bio-energy" field any different from your force field idea? your force field would have to permeate the physical and energy structure of the hero's body, and is produced by the hero's biology, ergo, force field = bio-energy field. The fact that it potentially also can be extended out of the body into touched targets becomes a side note from this point of view. $\endgroup$ – nijineko Sep 18 '16 at 14:54
  • $\begingroup$ @nijineko Good question. A bio-energy field sounds too New Agey & sounds frankly silly. It suggests the mechanism is inherently biological, as you said in your comment. I prefer to leave the mechanism for generating the force-field unspecified. It could be purely physical in nature & have nothing to do with his biology. The physics involved would be very exotic. It might even be technological. The Kryptonians were highly advanced. There are contradictory features of how this force-field might work. The DC explanation is poor science-fiction. They should do better. YMMV. $\endgroup$ – a4android Sep 19 '16 at 2:23
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, I see. There are certain advantages for leaving it unspecified. $\endgroup$ – nijineko Sep 19 '16 at 2:39
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you are asking about strength so what does the movement of eyes or the beat of the heart have anything to do with that?Nobody is going to lift weights with their eyes...

unless your eyes weight a ton each one you won't have incredibly strong eye muscles and unless you have cement or solid rocks instead of blood you won't have a super strong heart...

The strongest heart in the world is possessed by blue whales, it weights 1300 lbs, and is bigger than a car, big enough for a person to swim inside it.Yet it doesn't kill things by beating.

if you want a heart so strong to kill things by beating either truly use rocks instead of blood or have an animal as big as a planet.

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