It was hard to keep track of all the superheroes hitting the big screen this summer: Batman in "The Dark Knight Rises." Iron Man, The Hulk, Captain America and Thor in "The Avengers." Peter Parker in "The Amazing Spider-Man."
And each character seemed to have bulked up for their latest comeback.
"Over the last few decades, superheroes' bodies have become extremely muscular with body dimensions that are impossible for most men to attain," write the authors of a new study that analyzes the effects of superheroes on male body image.
Past research has shown that seeing muscular figures can make men feel badly about their own bodies, similar to the way seeing stick-thin supermodels can make women question their weight.
But the same effect may not hold true for our favorite comic book characters.
The study, published this week in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, suggests watching superheroes can actually increase males' self esteem – and might make mere mortals stronger.
They've been trained to focus for weeks at a time on a single goal. They know how to clearly identify obstacles and form step-by-step plans to overcome them.
They're obsessed with improving specific skills but judge success only by overall progress made in the world they've decided to conquer - as realistic or fantastical as it may be.
It's precisely these traits that make video-gamers great bodybuilders.
Take a moment to laugh, if you must. Now hear us out.