Swim Terminology

Heat Sheet (N) – Key to the entire meet; a printed packet including all information about a given meet which a team is attending, including seed times, heat and lane assignments, and even sometimes what time each event is set to kick off.

Capping (V) – To cap; the act of assisting a swimmer in snapping their swim cap onto their head through a series of complicated motions which must be completed in sync.

Dryland (N) – A swimmer’s version of onland conditioning; includes lifting, running, calisthenics, and basically all other land exercises.

Suit (N) – A shortened version of the word bathing suit; describes all types of competitive swimming wear.

Practice Suit (N) – A swimsuit dedicated specifically to practices; typically fits comfortably and comes in a variety of styles and design as well as brands

Meet Suit (N) – A swimsuit dedicated specifically to meets; typically fits tighter and comes in one cohesive style and coloring for all members of the team to promote uniformity and team morale.

Tech Suit (N) – A specialized kind of racing suit, usually reserved for attempting to achieve a personal best or qualifying time, that fits extremely tight and hugs the body in such a way that it helps to shave valuable time off of a race; usually requires assistance to pull up. Banned by USA Swimming for swimmers 12 and under. More information click HERE

Brackets (N) – Every swimmer’s worst nightmare; a pair of two-pronged punctuating marks a coach may write around a set to increase yardage or to increase difficulty level of a set.

Lapping (V) – Occurs when one swimmer outswims another swimmer by the length of a minimum of one lap.

Paddles (N) – A piece of equipment used by swimmers on their hands to correct and modify stroke technique.

Fins (N) – A piece of equipment used by swimmers on their feet to increase efficiency and speed of kicking.

Swimmer shoulders (N) – An easily identifiable mark of a swimmer; broad, sloping shoulders which most swimmers receive due to the hours they spend training in the pool. Pain commonly found in the shoulders of swimmers.

Goggle marks/tan (N) – The permanent circles around a swimmer’s eyes due to the tight goggles they wear for hours of training in order to protect their eyes from the chlorinated water.

Lane line (N) – The plastic ropes which divide a competitive swimming pool into sections for each swimmer to swim in.

IM (N) – Individual Medley; Refers to the fifth event of swimming which requires execution of each of the four strokes in the following order – butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle.

Taper (N) – A swimmer’s favorite time of the season; a rest cycle many swimmers complete at the end of a season leading up to championship or end of season meets in order to allow muscles to recover and to get the most accurate and fastest time possible at the aforementioned meet.

Deck (N) – Refers to any place located immediately outside of the physical swimming pool where equipment and personal belongings are stored, and coaches give instructions.

Long course (LC) (N)- Refers to a 50-meter length competition pool.

Short course (SC) (N)- Refers to a 25-yard or 25-meter length competition pool.


“Leave on the top” – Begin the next set when the clock reaches the “top of the hour” which is either the 00 or when the hand reaches the top of the clock, depending on whether your clock is a digital or electronic one.

“Silicone or latex?” – This is a reference to what a swimmer’s swim cap preference is since the most common types of caps are silicone and latex.

“I hit my hand on the lane line!” – It is a pain worse than stepping on a lego. When swimming, if a swimmer hits any part of their body on a lane line, it is a pain they will never forget, and only a swimmer knows the true extent of this pain as it has happened to nearly every one of us.

Source: https://www.swimmingworldmagazine.com/news/the-swimming-dictionary-a-list-of-words-and-phrases-lost-on-the-non-swimmer/?fbclid=IwAR1h0iL7CYyz_amXXEwnJXWaOTKqiC48LN2ufOqgnMB8K0KUoxP4C5RF7FA

  • Aerobic - Longer distance, moderate intensity, short rest period swimming sets that focus on building endurance
  • Anaerobic - Shorter distance, high intensity, long rest period swimming sets that focus on building power
  • Ascending - Getting slower (i.e. the time taken increases)
  • BD - Border Swimming our Local Swim Council (LSC)
  • Catch-up - Drill where one hand stays at full stretch ahead until the other meets it then it begins the stroke
  • Dive Start - Diving entry from the blocks in the deep end (usually either a grab start or a track start)
  • Dolphin Kick - Simultaneous leg kick used in Butterfly
  • DPS - Distance Per Stroke
  • Drag - Drill where fingertips drag through the water on the recovery
  • Drill - A controlled form of stroke designed to draw attention to a particular aspect of that stroke: Catch-Up , Drag, Salute, Elbows High, Zip-up, Doggy Paddle, Duck, and many more
  • Easy - Usually swim down or warm up, a slow easy stroke focusing on stretching out the stroke and warming up or down.
  • Elbows High - Drill where as it sounds you keep the elbows bent and high out of the water on the recovery
  • FC - Frontcrawl often referred to as Freestyle or Free
  • Fly - Butterfly occasionally BF
  • FR - Free, Freestyle (normally Frontcrawl)
  • Go off - Time in which you have to complete a swim or set of repeat distance/times inclusive of rest time
  • Grab Start - A type of Dive Start.  Can also refer to starting from in the pool holding onto the side
  • IM - Individual Medley (all four strokes together in order Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke and Frontcrawl)
  • Intensity - Run on a scale from 10 – 20 with 10 being easy and 20 being as hard as it gets 
  • Kick - Legs only (no pulling)
  • Kickboard - A flat float used for doing kick drills and sets
  • Lactate    Lactic acid is produced in the muscles during anaerobic sets.  Swim down & stretching help disperse lactate.
  • LSC-Local Swim Club
  • Long Course - 50m pool (term used for describing competitions)
  • Masters - Name used for our category of adult swimming at meets  
  • Medley - All four strokes swum in a specified order  
  • Medley Order - Relay: Back, Breast, Fly, Free, IM: Butterfly, Back, Breast, Free 
  • Meet - Competition, races
  • Negative Split - Go faster for the second half of the set distance than the first half
  • Open Turn - The two handed touch turn completed for Breaststroke and Butterfly
  • PB/PR - Personal Best/Personal Record - this is your best time to date for a particular stroke and distance, remember that long course (50m) times will be slower than short course (25y/m) so you will have pb's for each
  • Pull - Arms only (no kicking)
  • Pull Buoy - The figure of eight style float that goes between your legs for pull 
  • Recovery - On FC when the arm is out of the water being brought back up for the next stroke.   Can also be a recovery swim when you slow down to bring the HRT down after a high intensity set
  • Set - A self-contained part of the swimming session as ‘set’ by the coach e.g. a ‘main set’ might be 10 x 100m free
  • Short Course - 25 yards (sometimes meters) pool
  • Sprint - All out as fast as you can go, breathing as little as you can.
  • Steady - Swimming at a pace which is easily maintained (not easy or too hard, aiming for consistency of pace)
  • Streamline - Underwater body position after diving or pushing off the wall which maximises swim speed and efficiency
  • Stroke - The stroke you are completing free, breast, back, fly
  • Stroke Count - Number of strokes per length
  • Stroke Rate - Number of strokes per minute (measured by stopwatch or calculation)
  • T-3 - Timed 30 minute swim test. Goal is for the swimmer to complete as many laps of the pool as possible in 30 minutes, swimming at maximum effort but with an even pace. The results show the anabolic threshold speed and lactate level for the swimmer. This allows the coach to determine what aerobic level and interval training sets can be utilized at practice to plan appropriate training.
  • Track Start - A type of Dive Start