Navigating Swim Lingo

If you are new to swimming it can be easy to get confused by or hung up on swimming lingo. In order to easier explain what the terminology means and to prevent anyone from being deterred from one of the best sports and form of exercise out there, I thought I would compile a Swimming Lingo Guide.


Build – Refers to the practice of starting off at a slower pace and finishing considerably faster at the end

Choice – Choice means you can choose which stroke to use from Front Crawl, Back Crawl, Breaststroke, or Butterfly

Circle Swim – Explains the practice of swimming in a circular pattern, always on the right side when more than 2 people are swimming in a lane

Drill –  Generally refers to the act of breaking down a particular stroke in order to work on specific aspects of it

Dryland – Out of water activities that are designed to work and engage your core muscles

Freestyle – Technically refers to the notion of being able to use any of the 4 competitive strokes in a swimming event, but most commonly is used as an interchangeable term with Front Crawl

I.M. – Stands for Individual Medley which consists of swimming Butterfly, Back Crawl, Breaststroke, Front Crawl in that specific order

Interval – Specific amount of time allotted per set. Example: You may half 1 minute to swim 100 yards, or 4 laps, the time that you have left over is time to rest until you start the next set on the top of the minute

Pace Clock – Generally are located in most pool areas and are designed to help you keep track of your timed workouts and your pace

Pulling – Involves using only your upper body by use of paddles or buoys; works to build upper body strength

Sets – A workout set that concentrates on one area such as sprinting, pulling, or endurance

Skills –  Non-stroke swimming skills that are essential to stroke refinement and water safety. Example: Treading, Dolphin kick, Rotary breathing

SKIPS – Warm up set consisting of Swimming, Kicking, IM-ing, Pulling, Swimming in that specific order

Strokes – Refer to the 4 competitive strokes: Front Crawl, Back Crawl, Butterfly, Breaststroke and 2 other non-competitive strokes: Sidestroke & Elementary Back Stroke

Visualization – Mentally focusing that is used to practice upcoming practices and races

Warm Up – First in water activity of practice, usually includes Front Crawl and kicking

Warm Down – An easy set of Front Crawl that is the final portion of a swimming work out

Easy – Not exerting more effort than 60%

Moderate –  Exerting effort between 60% and 75%

Moderate Hard – Exerting effort between 75% and 90%

Sprint – Exerting your maximum effort available

By now you have a guide to deciphering some of the most common terms in the sport of swimming, but you may have some more questions may they be specific or general about terminology, workouts, or swimming. If thats the case I encourage you to email me at!



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5 responses to “Navigating Swim Lingo

  1. AWESOME! Thanks for this list. This will definitely help me be more proficient in my swim talk!

  2. thanks for this girl! im a terrible swimmer!! i wish i swam better.. oh well! haha

  3. Pingback: Designing a Swim Workout « What Kate Ate

  4. Pingback: Splashing Around « What Kate Ate

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