When you’re on the pool deck sometimes it can feel like swimming has its own language. That’s partially true – from training terms to swimming lingo, there’s a lot of vocabulary that can be foreign for a first time swimmer. Here are some of the most common terms you might hear during practice or see written out in a workout.
A’ Stroke - Your best stroke, often frontcrawl, but can be others
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 across each interval (i.e. the time taken increases)
Back - Backcrawl
Backstroke - Backcrawl
BBM - Beats Below Maximum (Heart Rate).
BC - Backcrawl or Backstroke or Back
Best Average – Swimming as fast as possible maintaining the same speed on every repetition within a set
BPM - Beats Per Minute (Heart Rate)
BR - Breaststroke sometimes also BS or Breast
Breast - Breaststroke
BS - Can be Breaststroke or Backstroke – check context!
Build – Swimming faster by the end of the set or repetition
Catch-up - Drill where on frontcrawl one hand stays at full stretch ahead until the other meets it then it begins the stroke
Circle swimming – swimming down on one side of the lane and back on the other side to accommodate multiple swimmers in the lane
Descending - Getting faster across each interval (i.e. the time taken reduces)
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 on frontcrawl fingertips drag through the water on the recovery (also known as trickle)
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 on FC you keep the elbows bent and high out of the water on the recovery
FC - Frontcrawl often referred to as Freestyle or Free
Flip turn - The somersault style turn used for frontcrawl and backstroke
Fly - Butterfly occasionally BF
FR - Freestyle or Free (normally Frontcrawl, but any stroke will do as long as you can maintain speed)
Free - Freestyle - normally Frontcrawl, but any stroke will do as long as you can maintain speed
Freestyle - Normally Frontcrawl, but any stroke will do as long as you can maintain speed
Go off - Time in which you have to complete a swim or set of repeat distance/times inclusive of rest time
HR - Heart rate
HRT - Heart Rate
HVO - High Velocity Overload – Swim part of the length (no more than 15m) at full speed without breathing, rest of the set distance swim easy
IM - Individual Medley (all four strokes together in order Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke and Frontcrawl)
Interval - How much time it is expected to complete a set swim e.g. 4 x 200ds FR on 3.00 (You have 3 minutes to complete each 200 - if you do it in 2m50s you have 10s rest)
Kick - Legs only (no pulling)
Kickboard - A flat float used for doing kick
Lactate Lactic acid is produced in the muscles during anaerobic sets to clear hydrogen. Swim down & stretching help disperse lactate.
Lap - Swimming to the other side of the pool and back is one LAP
Length - Swimming to the other side of the pool. Two lengths equal a lap.
Long Course Meters (LCM) - 50m pool
Masters - Name used for the category of adult swimming at Meets
Medley - All four strokes swum in a specified order
Medley Order - Butterfly, Back, Breast, Free, Medley Relay Order is always Back, Breast, Fly, Free
Meet - Swimming competition
Negative Split - Go faster for the second half of the set distance than the first half
Number 1 - Your best stroke, often FC, but can be others.
On the bottom – leaving the wall on the :30
On the top – leaving the wall on the :00
Open Turn - The two handed touch turn completed for Breaststroke and Butterfly
PB - Personal Best - 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 (25m & 25y) so you will have pb's for each
Percentages - Usually refers to the effort or pace being completed for that swim set. i.e. 80% is pretty hard but not maximum effort or sprint.
Pull - Arms only (no kicking)
Pull Buoy - The figure of eight style float that goes between your legs for pulling
Recovery - On frontcrawl 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 heartrate down after a high intensity set
Regeneration - A set where you swim to regenerate after an intense competition
RI - Rest Interval - How much rest (usually in seconds) you get after a set swim e.g. 8 x 50 freestyle RI 20s (20 seconds rest after each 50 yard freestyle) - sometimes also called simply Interval
RPE - Rate of Perceived Exertion
Salute - Drill where the hand touches head prior to entry on FC
Set - A self-contained part of the swimming session as ‘set’ by the coach e.g. a ‘main set’ might be 10 x 100 free
Short Course Meters (SCM) - 25 meter pool (worldwide)
Short Course Yards (SCY) - 25 Yard Pool (only in the United States)
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 maximizes swim speed and efficiency
Stroke Count - Number of strokes per 25 or 50 (FC and BC every 2 arm pulls - a cycle - BR and Fly every stroke) abbreviated as SC
Stroke Rate - Number of strokes per minute (measured by stopwatch or calculation) abbreviated as SR
Swim Down - Swimming slowly and steadily at the end of the session to warm down
Swimming sides – when there are only two people in the lane, staying on one side of the lane the entire workout
Track Start - A type of Dive Start
U/W - Underwater (usually refers to kicking, using Dolphin kick)