Why Michael Phelps Has Round Marks On His Back At The Olympics

Michael Phelps looks like he fought an octopus. Alex Naddour, too, showed up for gymnastics spotted red:

 Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Those uncanny blood-colored circles are the result of cupping. Cupping, explained by NBC New York, is:

Basically, cupping involves a cup attached to a pump. Athletes put the cup on their skin and create suction with the pump. Some say the technique increases blood flow and helps a person’s sore muscles heal.

Cupping is ancient in origin and sometimes involves fire for a pump. One might use cups made of clay or metal or bamboo, but Olympians — all kinds of athletes — use cups like these:

And I dunno if you’ve ever put a suction cup on your skin in an attempt to hang a towel on your own belly, but it gives you a nice hickey. Cover yourself in big cups connected to tubes connected to pumps and you end up looking like Natalie Coughlin did:

Some thoughts about cupping:

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– Using cups, athletes from Japan, Bangladesh, Laos and Niger could make easy flag designs on their bodies.

– Someone could do the Olympic rings on their back?

– Cupping in Portuguese is sangria.

Cupping seems like a good idea if you need some blood flow in your sore, athletic muscles, or if you want to look like you caught a rash from an alien. That’s why so many Olympic champions are spotted.

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