Throughout Tokyo 2020, Olympic swimmers have been seen with dark circles on their backs during competition – and fans have been questioning why.
They were seen on the backs of Japanese swimmer Akira Namba and Australia’s Kyle Chalmers.
They appear as brown circles which, as far as can be seen, run from the back of the athlete towards their shoulder.
Michael Phelps – the most successful Olympic swimmer of all-time – also used them during Rio 2016.
The method behind their usage is a scientific one.
Cupping is a technique used to draw up blood, increase blood circulation and relieve muscle tension.
The method involves creating suction on the skin through the use of different types of cups.
The cup is placed on the skin and creates a vacuum which draws up the skin’s tissue, according to a Men’s Health report.
They say that when the skin seals the hot air in the vessel, the air inside begins to cool. That causes the skin to contract, which increases blood flow.
And according to a report from SwimmerPro, which was published earlier this year, professional swimmers use the technique to speed up the recovery process. This is particularly important when they have little time between events.
At the Olympics, time is of a premium. There are 18 different swimming disciplines in total, and some swimmers perform in four or five different events.
At Beijing 2008, Phelps took part in six individual events and two team events, spanning across just seven days.
He once told New York Times: “I’ve done it before meets, pretty much every meet I go to.
“So I asked for a little cupping yesterday because I was sore and trainer hit me pretty hard and left a couple of bruises.”
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