Swimming Terminology


Following are definitions of common terms used in training swimmers and at meets.  This is the swimming “lingo”, and you and your athlete will hear this language used often during practice and meets.

AEROBIC– In the presence of oxygen; aerobic metabolism utilizes oxygen.  Aerobic swims require that the muscles replenish their oxygen supply during the race.  Any event over 200 yards, or meters, primarily uses the aerobic system.  Example set: 10 x 100 free with 10 seconds rest between each swim, holding a steady pace. 

AGE GROUP– A term designating swimmers who are below the age of 12.

ANAEROBIC – In the absence of oxygen; non-oxidation metabolism.  Sprint swims.  The events that rely primarily on the anaerobic system are those 50 to 100 yards, or meters.  Example set: 5 x 100 free at 3:00 minutes, race each one.

BANNED SUBSTANCE– Any performance enhancing substance that is prohibited by the IOC and FINA, the governing bodies of international swimming.

BREAKOUT– The first pull after a start, or off a wall, is the breakout.  This is important to gain momentum and establish correct body position.

BROKEN SWIMS– Interval training in which a race is separated or broken into parts with a specified rest interval between each segment.  This allows the swimmer to swim at race pace.

CODE OF CONDUCT–  Form signed by swimmers prior to travel or events, such as camps, stating that the swimmers will abide by certain behavioral guidelines.

CUT TIMES– A minimum time standard required to enter an event at a meet.

DESCENDING SET– Training set in which each repeat time gets faster as the set progresses.

DPS– Distance Per Stroke, covering the farthest distance possible with each stroke.  Swimming DSP requires concentration on technique and efficiency.

DRILL– A style of swimming that focuses on one or two parts of the stroke.  Drills aid swimmers in becoming more proficient at each part of the stroke.

DRYLAND TRAINING– Training done out of the water that aids and enhances swimming performance.  This usually includes stretching, calisthenics, resistance training, weight training, or a combination thereof. 

ENDURANCE– The ability to persist, to resist fatigue, usually as a result of increasing yardage swam as the season progresses.

EVEN SPLIT– When the segments of a race are all near the same time or pace.  Swimming at the same pace throughout a race or swim.

FIFTEEN (15) METERS– The distance swimmers can usually legally kick underwater without surfacing.  This distance should be marked at the side of the pool and along each lane.

FINALS – Swimmers who qualify in the top 16 in an event at a championship meet get a second swim at night to determine the meet champions. 

FINISH– The last part of a race from the flags to the wall.  It is important to finish with extended arm(s) and touch with the fingertips.  “Poke the wall!”

FLORIDA AGE GROUP CHAMPIONSHIPS - An elite level meet for swimmers ages 14 & under with competitive time standards based on their age group in the state. The meet is held in the spring and in the summer. The fastest swimmers in each age group at this meet in the summer are selected to compete at the Zone Championships.

FLORIDA SWIMMING INC. – The governing LSC in the state of Florida.

HEATS –Races with swimmers who have similar times. An event may have multiple heats. Results of each heat are put together to determine the fastest time.

HEAT SHEET– They are programs sold by the host team that include all the events, heat and lane assignments for each swimmer.

HOLDING TIME– Time a coach wants a swimmer to maintain on an interval set, such as 10 x 100 on 2 minutes, holding 1 minute 30 seconds.

INTERVAL– The amount of time from one repeat until the beginning of the next repeat.  It is the send off for swims, such as 10 x 100 on 2 minutes.  The interval is 2 minutes.

JUNIOR OLYMPICS (THIS MEET IS NOW CALLED FLORIDA AGE GROUP CHAMPIONSHIPS)- An elite level meet for swimmers ages 14 & under with competitive time standards based on their age group in the state. The meet is held in the spring and in the summer. The fastest swimmers in each age group at this meet in the summer are selected to compete at the Zone Championships.

LACTATE– A byproduct in the muscles from intense exercise.  It is produced in most anaerobic sets.

LSC– Local Swim Committee, the governing board, or swimming authority, at the local level as defined by geographic boundaries.  USA Swimming has 59 LSCs.

MENTAL TRAINING– The psychological side to swimming by preparing one’s attitude about an event, meet or training set. 

NATIONAL AGE GROUP TIME STANDARDS– Time standards derived from the previous years results that are broken down by age and sex, and divisions, i.e. B, BB, A, AA, AAA, and AAAA.  These designations are on a national basis and may be used for entry or qualifying purposes.  Many LSCs have their own time standards as well.

NATIONAL AGE GROUP TOP 10 TIME– Times set by the 10 fastest individuals within an age group.  Consideration time standards are published in the USA Swimming Rules and Regulations Book.

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS – An elite level meet for all ages with the most competitive time standards, next to the Olympic Trials.  This meet has been termed Senior Nationals in years.  This meet is held in the spring and summer.  Not only does the meet serve as national championships; it is also used to select international teams.  Swimmers, qualifying for this, meet are allowed to swim in four individual events and three relays.

NEGATIVE SPLIT– When the second half of a race is faster than the first half.

OLYMPIC TRIALS – The most elite meet in the United States. This meet is held every four years, months prior to the Olympic Games. The top two swimmers in each event are selected for the U.S. Olympic Team. This meet is considered one of the fastest meets in the world aside from the Olympics. Usually the top 5 finishers at this meet clock in times that would make finals at the Olympics.

PACE CLOCK– Device used in practice to assist in pacing and for intervals. 

PITCH– Angles used by the hands and arms as they scull through a stroke pattern.

PRELIMINARIES – Morning events at a championship meet. The top 16 qualifying swimmers in each even move on to finals, which are swum at night.

RACE PACE– Training which allows the swimmer to train at racing speed.  Usually done with shorter distances or broken swims.  This type of swim often times simulates race conditions.

REACTION TIME– The time it takes a person to react to a command.  The amount of time between the starting sound and when the swimmer leaves the starting block.

RELAY EXCHANGE– Start used during relays for members other than the lead swimmer.  The swimmer’s arms circle back and around, the arm swing is accelerated as the arms move forward which pulls the swimmer off the starting block.

REPEAT– The distance used in a set, i.e. in a set of 10 x 50, the 50 is the repeat distance.  A repeat time to hold may also be given.

SCHOLASTIC ALL-AMERICA – A status given to swimmers who have accomplished national level time standards while maintaining a 3.5 GPA in school.

SCULLING– Making a figure eight motion with the hands by pressing in and out on the water.  It can be done on the back or stomach, above the head or at the hips.  This helps develop a “feel” for the water.

SEND-OFF– The amount of time between two swimmers pushing off the wall in a set.  Usually the send off is between 5 and 10 seconds.

SENIOR CHAMPIONSHIPS- An elite level meet for all ages with competitive time standards in the state. This meet is held in the spring and in the summer. The fastest swimmers ages 15-18 are picked for the Zone Championships in the summer meet.

SPEEDO SENIOR SECTIONALS - An elite level meet for all ages with competitive time standards in a specific region of the United States. This meet is considered a national level meet, and swimmers who compete at this meet are eligible for Scholastic All-America status. This meet is usually held in the spring and in the summer in various regions of the United States.

SET– A specific segment of a daily practice.  It could be kick, drill, pull, swim or any combination.  Some sets may be repeated several times in a major set.  Expressed as 10 x 100 on 2 minutes.

SPLITS – A swimmer’s intermediate time in a race.  The time for each separate 25, 50, 100, etc.  Splits help swimmers learn race strategy.

STREAMLINING– The position used to gain maximum distance during a start or push-off.  The swimmer’s body should look like a pencil, sharp on top and straight.  Proper streamlining contributes to faster swimming.

STROKE RATE – A swimmers arm speed in a race. Measured in cycles per minute.

TAPER – The final preparation phase prior to major competitions.  Each swimmer and coach work together to develop their training for this phase.

TIMING SYSTEM– An electronic system used to officially record times at a meet.

USS– United States Swimming

WARM-UP – A time for swimmers to activate their muscle fibers for training or racing.