Swim Terms


Age Group              Program through which USA Swimming provides fair and open competition for its younger members. It is designed to encourage maximum participation, provide an educational experience, enhance physical and mental conditioning, and develop a rich base of swimming talent. Recognized age groups are 10 & Under, 11-12, 13-14, 15 & Over (Open). Local events may also include 8 & Under.


Aggregate Time     Times achieved by four individuals in separate starts which are added together to arrive at a relay time for entry purposes.


ASCA                      American Swimming coach Association


Ascending Set       Training set where repeat times get progressively slower each time the set is swum.


Backstroke             The swimmer must stay on his/her back, except during turns. The stroke is an alternation motion of the arms – much like the crawl stroke with a flutter kick.


Bands                     Surgical tubing can be used both in the water and as a part of a dry land training program. In the water, the tubing is attached to the swimmer to allow assisted and resisted training can be accomplished. On land the tubing provides a strength-training tool while mimicking actual swimming



Block                      The starting platform


Breaststroke          The arms move simultaneously on the same horizontal plane. The hands are pushed forward from the breast on or under the surface of the water and brought backwards in the propulsive stage of the stroke simultaneously. The kick is a simultaneous thrust of the legs called a “frog” or breaststroke kick. No flutter or dolphin kicking is allowed.  Swimmers must touch the wall with both hands at the same time before executing their turn. Swimmers are allowed only one underwater pull and kick off the start and turn.


Broken Swims        Interval training where a race is broken into swims with a specific rest interval between each segment. This allows the swimmer to swim at race speed. These swims are motivational for the swimmer and gives a coach an idea of a swimmers potential.


Bulkhead                A wall constructed to divide a pool into different courses, such as a 50 meter pool to enable maximum use of pool space.


Butterfly Stroke     This is the most physically demanding stroke, the butterfly features the simultaneous overhead stroke of the arms combined with the dolphin kick. The dolphin kick features both legs moving up and down together. No flutter or frog kick is allowed. As in breaststroke, the swimmer must touch the wall with both hands before turning.


Carbohydrate         Primary source of energy used by athletes in workouts and meets.  Foods such as cereal, fruits, bread, pasta and vegetables are excellent sources of carbohydrates.


Circle Swimming   Swimmers stay on the right of the black line when swimming in a lane effectively swimming up and back in a circle. This allows more swimmers in a lane.


Closed                    A meet is “closed meet” when it is only open to swimmers from specified teams.


Coach                     A person who trains and teaches athletes in the sport of swimming.


Code of Conduct   An agreement signed by a swimmer/parent prior to participation stating that the swimmer/parent will abide by certain behavioral guidelines.


Consolation           Consolation finals is the competition for the fastest swimmers who did not qualify for the finals.


Cut                          (aka Qualifying Time) Time standard qualifying times necessary to attend a particular meet or event.


Deck Entry              A meet where entries are accepted on the first, or later day of the meet and swimmers are subsequently seeded into events. Some meets do not allow any deck entries.


Deck Seeding         A procedure of assigning swimmers to proper lanes and heats immediately before each event by the clerk of course or by the referee on deck.


Descending Set     Training set where repeat times get progressively faster each time the set is swum.


Distance                  Term used to refer to events 400 meter / 500 yard and longer.


Disqualification      Occurs when an official observes a rule violation by the

DQ                           swimmer. A disqualified swimmer cannot receive awards or use the result as an official time.


Drag Suit                 A second loose-fitting suit worn by swimmers in a workout and during warm-up to add weight and resistance to the water. This concept is similar to a batter swinging with two or three bats while on deck.


Drill                          A portion, or part of a stroke, which works on a specific part of the stroke and to perfect swimming technique.


Dry land Training   Training done out of the water and aids and enhances swimmer’s performance. This usually includes stretching, calisthenics or weightlifting program.


Endurance              Endurance is best achieved when training at speeds

Training                   approximately 70-80% of MAX Vol.


Energy                    Fuel, heat. Fuel for work. Conversion of carbohydrates and fats to actual fuel which enables the body to work.


False Start              Occurs when a swimmer is moving at the start signal. In USA Swimming, one false start will generally result in disqualification.


Fat                           The second source of energy used by athletes. It takes up to 20-30 minutes to tap into this source. Most swimmers, however, consume to much fat.


Final                        The championship heat of an event in which the top swimmers from the preliminaries compete


Finals                      The session of a meet where qualifying rounds were held previously to determine the finalists (6 to 16 depending on the pool size and whether there are consolation finals). The finalists compete to determine the winner.


Finish                      The final phase of the race or touching the wall at the end of the race.


Flags                       Pennants strung across the pool 5 yards or meters from the end of the pool. They enable swimmers who are competing in the backstroke to execute a turn more efficiently by counting their strokes from the flags to the wall.


Freestyle Stroke    The competitor may swim any stroke he/she wishes. The usual stroke is the Australian Front Crawl. This stroke is characterized by the alternate motion of the arms and a flutter kick.


Freestyle Relay      Each of the four swimmers swim freestyle for one-fourth of the relay distance. No swimmer may swim more than one leg.


Goal                         A specific time or achievement a swimmer sets and strives for. Can be short term or long term.


Gutter                      The area along the edge of the pool in which water overflows during a race and re-circulates through the filtration system.


Heats                       An event is divided in to heats when there are too may swimmers to swim at one time. The slowest swimmers are in the first heat and the fastest swimmers are in the last heat.


Individual Medley   An event in which one swimmer swims equal distances of

IM                             each stroke in the following order: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle.


Interval                    The measure of time in which the swimmer has to complete a repeat, and rest, before going again


Interval Training     Involves completing a specific number of repeats at a specified speed with a specified rest period between swims. These are four variables to consider: 1) Number of repeats, 2) Distance of each repeat, 3) Average speed of the repeat, 4) Rest interval between repeats. This is the most widely used method of swim training.


Lap Counter           A set of plastic display numbers used to keep track of laps during a race 500 yards or longer. Also, the person who stands a the opposite end from the start and counts for the swimmer.


Legal                       A race or stroke swim according to current USA rules


Log Book                A book in which swimmers record their time achieved at any given meet or time trial


Long course           A pool 50 meters in length. USA Swimming conducts most summer swimming in long course.


Medley Relay          All four strokes are swum by four different swimmers. No swimmer may swim more than one leg of the relay, which is swum backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and freestyle order.


Meet                        Competition designed to be a learning experience. By implementing what has been learned in practice, swimmers test themselves against the clock to mark improvement.


Middle Distance     Term used to refer to events of 200 yards/meters to 500 yards/400 meters in length.


Negative Split        Swimming the second half of the race, either equal to or faster than the first half.


Nutrition                 The process by which a living organism assimilates food and uses it for growth and replacement of tissues.


Official                    A pool deck judge, at sanctioned competitions who enforces USA rules.  There are stroke and turn judges, administrative officials, starters, timers and referees.


Open                       A meet is an “open meet” when it is open to all swimmers


Pace                        The time a swimmer holds for each segment of a race.


Pace Clock             Large clock with a large second hand and a smaller minute hand, used to check pace or maintain intervals in practice. May also be digital.


Prelims                   The qualifying round of heats held for each event to determine the finalists.


Proof of Time         A requirement at some meets (usually AA and above) to make certain that all swimmers have legally met the time standard for that meet.


Protein                    Found throughout the body and is necessary to build all body cells. Only during starvation or extreme malnutrition is protean used as an energy source.


Psyche Sheet         A ranking by seeding times of all the swimmers entered in each race of a meet sometimes used at meets in place of a heat sheet.


Pull Buoy                Styrofoam devices put between the legs to isolate the use of arms and keep legs afloat in pulling exercises.


Qualifying Time      Qualifying time necessary to compete in a particular event and / or  competition.


Race Pace              Swimming at speeds comparable to race speeds.


Ready Bench         (Clerk of Course) An area at the meet where swimmers report before their even to be arranged into their heats and lane assignment.


Recovery                Swimming at sub-maximum speeds to allow the swimmer to recover back to pre-race heart rates and lactate levels more quickly. This is used as active recovery between hard repeats as well as races at a meet.


Referee                   The USA official who has the authority over a final decision and sees that the meet is run efficiently


Relay                      An event in which four swimmers compete together as a team to achieve one time.


Relay Meet             A meet of relays only


Repeat                    The actual distance used in a set. For example, a 10 X 50 (tem fifty’s),  the 50 would be the repeat distance and the 10 would be the number of time the 50 is repeated. Sometimes a repeat time to hold is given.


Scratch                   To withdraw from an event of a competition.


Set                           A specific segment of practice, and example is 10 x 100


Session                   Any portion of a meet distinctly separated from other portions by  locale, time or type of competition. There are preliminary and final sessions, morning and afternoon sessions, age group and senior sessions.


Shave                      Prior to major competitions a swimmer will shave his /her entire body to reduce drag (resistance) and heighten the sensation of moving faster through the water.


Short Course          A 25 yard pool.


Split                         A per lap (or length) time, recorded by coaches for a swimmer. Splits are used to teach the concept of pacing. A swimmer’s time for a 100 yard event is broken into 25 yard splits.


Start                        The swimmer is called onto the block by a whistle blow. Then the swimmer is called into position “take your mark” by the starter. The starter visually checks that the swimmers are in the down position and still. Once the starter is satisfied, the race is started by a whistle, gun or electronic tone. If the starter and the referee agree that a swimmer has started early, the offending swimmer will be disqualified at the completion of the race.


Starter                     The USA official at a meet who is responsible for starting each heat and calling the next heat to the blocks.


Streamline              The position used to gain maximum distance during a start and / or push off from the wall. The swimmer’s body is a tight as it can be forming a pencil-like position with the hands forming the point.


Stroke Judge          A certified USA official, who determines the legality of a swimmer’s stroke and disqualifies any swimmer who does not conform to USA rules.


Swim-A-Thon         A marathon swim used to raise funds. Each team member solicits per length sponsors for a 200 length (maximum) swim. A portion of the proceeds goes to USA Swimming and the rest goes to the team hosting the marathon.


Swim Venue           The physical area for a swim meet, located on the sides and ends of the pool, spectator’s area, team areas within the pool facility, locker rooms and other areas that may be specifically designated by the host club or organization, meet director or referee.


Taper                       The resting process of training. Prior to major competition training is tapered off to allow the swimmers to compete in a rested state (sometimes referred to as super-compensation). When rested properly a swimmer will usually achieve lifetime best times.


Time Trials              An event or series of events where swimmers may achieve or better a required time standard. Time Trials are sometimes conducted after regular swimming sessions to try and achieve a valid qualifying time.


Times Finals           Swim meets where there are no preliminaries. The final places for each event are determined by the times preformed in the heat.


Touch Pad               The part of an electronic timing system that rest in the water at the end of each lane. Swimmer’s times are recorded when they touch the pad.


Turns                       Quick turns are essential in a good race. In all events, the swimmer must touch the wall. In freestyle and backstroke the swimmer may do a flip turn as he or she reaches the wall, touching only with their feet. In breaststroke and butterfly, the swimmer must touch the wall with both

hands before executing a turn.


USA Swimming      The National governing body for swimming in the United States and is responsible for the conduct and administration of swimming in the United States.


USA Card/               The number given to a swimmer when they join USA. No two

Number                   swimmers can have the same number. This card number is

required at any given competition.


Warm Down            Used by a swimmer to rid the body of excess lactic acid generated during a race or workout.


Warm Up                 Used by a swimmer, prior to the main workout set or race, to get muscles loose and warm prior to competing.


Work / Rest             This ratio compares the actual work to how much rest the

Ratio                        swimmer is given.