Swimming Glossary

Swimming Glossary

  • Backstroke flags: Lines of flags placed above the lanes 5 yards (short course) or 5 meters (long course) from the end of the pool. The flags signal the backstroker that he is approaching the wall and enable backstrokers to execute a backstroke turn more efficiently.

  • Block: the starting platform.

  • Build: Increase speed throughout a swim. Easy at the beginning, building to fast at the end while still maintaining good technique.

  • Bulkhead: A wall constructed to divide a pool into different courses, such as a 50-meter pool split into two 25-yard courses. We do not have a bulkhead at our pool.

  • Descend Set: This is a set in which you are asked to swim faster on each successive repeat. For example, you might see “4 X 50 descend” and you would swim #1 in 43 seconds, #2 in 42 seconds, #3 in 41 seconds, and #4 in 40 seconds. Another example might be 8 X 100, descend 1 to 4, 5 to 8. This means that each of the first four swims is faster than the last. On the 5th swim, you go back to an easier pace and then get faster on 6, 7, and 8. Generally, you need to start easy on the first repeat of a descend set, and progress to faster and faster swimming.

  • DPS: Distance per stroke. The distance that you travel during one stroke.

  • Dryland Training: Training done out of the water that aids and enhances swimming performance; usually includes stretching, calisthenics and/or weight training ( older swimmers).

  • Easy: Easy means to swim without expending a lot of effort. It does not mean SLOW. It is possible to swim easy without swimming slow. Swimming easy means that you are swimming at a pace that allows you to think clearly and swim with great stroke technique. This is a pace that gives you plenty of oxygen, that doesn't’t cause fatigue or panic, and that enables you to think about your stroke, your approach to the wall, your turn, breakout, finish, etc. Most swimmers should spend a lot of time swimming easy so that they can burn into muscle memory the things they want to happen automatically with they swim fast. Swimming easy means swimming at a pace that you can concentrate on “execution” and good form.

  • Fast: Fast does not mean hard. Just as it is possible to swim easy without swimming slow, it’s possible to swim fast without swimming hard. Easy speed is the goal. Frantic movements usually equal hard swimming rather than fast swimming.

  • Fish Kicks: A fast fly kick from an underwater push off the wall that is completed on the swimmers side.

  • Gutter: The area along the edge of the pool in which water overflows during a race and is recirculated through the filtration system.

  • Lane: The specific area in which the swimmer is assigned to swim,i.e., lane 1, lane 2, etc

  • Lane markers, lines or ropes: Continuous floating markers extending from one end of the pool to the other.

  • Lap/Length: “Length” refers to one trip down the pool, from one end to the other. “Lap” refers to a round trip, from one end to the other and back again to your starting point.

  • Long Axis: The axis that runs along your spine from the top of your head to your tailbone. When you swim the long-axis strokes (freestyle and backstroke), your body rotates from side to side around this long axis.

  • Pace: Depending on what the “assignment” is, this can mean your race pace or the pace at which you normally swim repeats of a particular distance.

  • Pullout: The underwater pull (and kick) in breaststroke.

  • Set: A practice “assignment” consisting of a series of rounds and/or repeats with a specific purpose, task, or challenge to be met by the swimmer.

  • Short Axis (SA): The axis that runs across your pelvic region from left hip to right hip. When you swim the short-axis strokes (breaststroke and butterfly), your body undulates up and down across this short axis.

  • Smooth: Easy, relaxed, fully controlled swimming. A pace that you can maintain over a fairly long distance (400 to 1,000 yards or meters) and still remain aerobic (as opposed to anaerobic).

  • Stroke Rate or SR: This is also know as turnover rate or cadence or how fast your arms are moving. Generally, a high turnover rate is reserved for short distances and racing, and in those cases it must be accompanied by great technique in order to be effective. Many swimmers believe that the only way to achieve speed is with a high stroke rate. What coaches know, and see every day, is that great technique almost always trumps high turnover.

  • Streamline: The position used by swimmers when starting or pushing off the walls designed to reduce water resistance. We practice 2 kicks on back- 2 on side- 2 on front.

  • Taper: The final preparation phase, sometimes referred to as "rest". Prior to major competitions, older, more experienced swimmers shave their entire bodies to reduce resistance and heighten sensation in the water.

  • Vertical Kicking: Stationary, vertical kicking done for several seconds just before pushing off on a new repeat... or done as its own “set.”

  • Warm Up: Low intensity swimming used by swimmer prior to a main practice set or race to get muscles loose and warm. Warm up gradually increases heart rate, respiration and helps to prevent injury

  • Warm Down: Low intensity swimming used by swimmers after a race or main practice set to rid the body of excess lactic acid, and to gradually reduce heart rate and respiration.