The Australian Swim Dictionary

©Bill Moorcroft Swimming


The Australian Swim Dictionary has been researched, compiled and published by Bill Moorcroft Swimming and may not be copied or reproduced without the written permission of the publisher. The Australian Swim Dictionary is subject to review and update on a regular basis. Although suggestions for corrections and additional entries are welcome, submissions will be at the discretion of the publisher.


Terms Explanations
15 Metre Mark Marks on the sides of the pool and on the lane lines 15 metres from the ends of the pool. In Freestyle, Backstroke, and Butterfly events the swimmer must surface at or before these marks.
3-4 drill Freestyle/backstroke drill. Take two strokes freestyle, and on the third stroke (when you turn to breathe), continue the roll until you’re on your back. Take three backstrokes, and on the fourth stroke, continue the roll until you’re back in the prone (freestyle) position. Continue alternating three freestyle and four backstroke strokes. This drill helps you focus on good body roll in both strokes.
3S See “Triple Switch”
4-4-4 drill Backstroke drill for practising body roll. Alternate four tootsie rolls (see “Tootsie Roll”)  with four full backstrokes
6 lane pool Lanes numbered 1 to 6 (with the fastest time in lane 3)
8 lane pool Lanes 1 to 8 (with the fastest time in lane 4)
Ascending Interval A set during which the interval (swim time plus rest) increases with each repeat. An ascending-interval set of 5 x 100 may have send offs of 1:40, 1:45, 1:50, 1:55 and 2:00.
Ascending Set A series of swims of the same distance whereby the swim time increases with each successive repeat. The swimmer’s times on an ascending set of 4 x 50 on a 1:00 interval may be :40, :42, :44, :46.
Adenosine-triphosphate The chemical which is the only form of energy supply to muscle cells. The energy required per time unit determines the form and with which energy- suppliers, ADENOSINE-TRIPHOSPHATE (ATP) is manufactured or re- manufactured. (See also AEROBIC, ALACTIC, ANAEROBIC)
Aerobic Metabolic processes occurring in the presence of oxygen allowing energy to be supplied for a long time. (See also ANAEROBIC, LACTIC ACID)
Aerobic Exercise Is physical activity which elevates the heart rate to a level where cardiac and pulmonary benefits occur. Generally 15 to 20 minutes is minimum period from which a benefit is derived. Aerobic exercise does decrease both the resting heart rate and the resting systolic blood pressure. By these two methods there is a decrease in the oxygen demand made by the heart muscle itself.
Age Groups – Individuals Aussi Masters Individual Events – 20-24 and then in 5 year age groups (25-29, 30-34, etc.).
Age Groups – Relays Aussi Masters Relays – 80 – 119, 120-159, 160-199, 200-239, 240 – 279, 280 – 319, 320 – 359 and then in forty-year increments. The age of the team shall be the sum of the ages in whole years of its members.
Alactic energy Metabolic processes, using fuel readily available in the muscle cells, occurring in the absence of oxygen and without the production of lactic acid. Very high speeds, maybe as much as 15% faster than the average for the race, can be sustained for about seven seconds at maximum intensity.
Anabolic Literally, “muscle-building”; often mis-understood because of its connection with anabolic steroids, which are banned substances designed to regenerate muscle-tissue at an abnormally fast rate. All “good” physical training should be anabolic in its effect. (See also CATABOLIC)
Anaerobic Metabolic processes occurring in the absence of oxygen allowing high levels of energy to be supplied for about forty-five seconds at maximum intensity or longer if balanced with AEROBIC processes. (See also LACTIC ACID)
Anaerobic Threshold Is the fastest speed a swimmer can maintain over a long set of short rest repeats without building up any lactic acid.
Anchor The final swimmer in a relay. Also the point in the stroke pattern where the hand feels the most resistance and begins effective propulsive movement.
Angle of Attack The position or degree of angle that the hand enters the water.
Announcer (Swim Meets) Runs the PA system. They keep everyone informed as to which event is being run, and also calls for the swimmers to the next event.
Arm The lever, over, or past which, the body is moved in FRONT-CRAWL, BACKSTROKE or BUTTERFLY, to produce satisfactory swimming.
Arousal The psycho-physiological phenomenon which excites the central nervous system, enabling high intensities and movement qualities. (See also MOTIVATION)
Arteries Carry blood from Heart to Body. (See Veins)
Ascending Intervals or swims that increase in repeat time or decrease in speed. Each consecutive swim get slower
Backstroke (back crawl) A swimming style similar to an upside down front crawl. Backstroke is the second slowest speed after breaststroke. Alternating arms on back plus body roll and kicking. Backstroke is swam as the first stroke in the Medley Relay and the second stroke in the I.M.
Backstroke flags Markers, hung over the water five meters from the turning walls, to warn backstroke swimmers of their approach.
Balance Refers to body position. Proper balance implies that your hips and head position are equally close to the surface of the water as you swim, as well as rolling equally to each side during the freestyle and backstroke.
Basal Pulse Is taken just after waking when your body’s metabolism is at its lowest. A low early morning pulse indicates heart efficiency with your heart muscle pumping more blood with each beat. An untrained heart will beat faster to pump the same volume of blood. (See Pulse Rate)
Beep The starting sound from an electronic timing system.
Bell Lap The last lap of a distance Freestyle race.  The Starter normally rings a bell over the lane of the lead swimmer with one lap plus 5 metres to go.


In freestyle swimming, breathing to the right side then swimming three strokes and breathing to the left side, then swimming three strokes and breathing the to right side, etc. Important for developing overall evenness in your stroke.
Blocks The starting platforms located behind each lane with a variety of designs both permanent and removable. Also incorporate a bar to allow swimmers to perform backstroke starts.
Blood Pressure Usually increases with age. A useful guide to average blood pressure is (100+age)÷80. For a 50-year-old person this would be: (100+50)÷80=150/80
Continually high blood pressure as well as any sudden changes can be extremely dangerous, particularly in older adults.
Body Position The way your body sits in the water during swimming. Ideal body position requires that your body is as straight and long and as close the surface of the water as possible.
Body Roll Refers to freestyle and backstroke swimming. Rolling from the left of your body to the right side and back again, etc. Swimming “flat” would be the sensation of swimming directly on your stomach all the time.
BPM Beats per minute, the units used to measure HEART-RATE.
Breaststroke One of the four recognized competitive strokes, so named because swimmers used to stay on their front, or breast, during the stroke cycle. A special feature of competitive breaststroke is the underwater pullout. From the streamline position, one uses the arms to pull all the way down past the hips. This is followed by the recovery of the arms to the streamline position once more, and then a kick. Swam as the second stroke in the Medley Relay and the third stroke in the I.M.
Breaststroker’s Knee (Tendonitis) The Breaststroke kick is an unnatural motion for the knees, so sometimes the knee can become tender and sore. In most cases, with proper care, exercises, and stroke technique, even severe tendonitis can be controlled.
Build or Build UP A steady increase in speed and power during a workout piece. Build UP your speed throughout each single swim distance so that the last distance is the fastest.
Build DOWN Start each swim fast and end slow, achieving a gradual decrease in speed.
Butterfly (fly) The butterfly technique with the dolphin kick consists of synchronous arm movement with a synchronous leg kick. The wave-like body movement is also very significant, as this is the key for an easy synchronous over water recovery and breathing. In the initial position, the swimmer lies on the breast, the arms are stretched to the front, and the legs are extended to the back. Swam as the third stroke in the Medley Relay and the first stroke in the I.M.
Cap The latex or lycra covering worn on the head of swimmers. Worn over or under goggle straps.
Carbohydrates The main source of food energy used by athletes
Cardio-vascular system The system which transports oxygenated blood from the lungs to the organs and muscle tissues via the heart and arteries, and de-oxygenated blood back to the lungs via veins and heart.
Catabolic Literally, “muscle-wasting”; all “bad” physical training is catabolic in its’ effect. (See also ANABOLIC)
Catch The point in the stroke pattern where the hand feels the most resistance and begins effective propulsive movement.
Catch Up Freestyle drill in which you pull and recover while keeping the other arm outstretched in front. Allow both hands to touch in front of you before starting the pull with the opposite arm
Centre Line of Body Imaginary line drawn down the long axis of the body.
Centre of buoyancy The shifting point in the body, roughly in the centre of the thorax, which locates the “floatability”. The conflict between the centre of buoyancy and the CENTRE OF GRAVITY causes torque which produces WAVE-DRAG.
Centre of gravity The shifting point in the body, roughly in the centre of the abdomen, which locates the “sinkability”. The conflict between the centre of gravity and the CENTRE OF BUOYANCY produces torque which produces WAVE-DRAG.
Check Starter
(Swim Meets)
Shall: receive swimmers from the Marshal; ensure that swimmers are seated or standing behind the lane in which they are to swim prior to the completion of the previous heat.
Chicken Wings (See Thumb Tip Drag)
Chief Time Keeper
(Swim Meets)
Shall: allocate Timekeepers to their lanes, and appoint Chief Lane Timekeepers for each lane, who shall be responsible for recording the times when watches are used; instruct Timekeepers “clear your watches” for the commencement of the next heat; signal the Referee when all Timekeepers are ready.
Chlorine A chemical used in many pools to kill bacteria in water and keep it clear and safe to swim in.
Circle Swim Swimming with two or more swimmers in one lane, where all swimmers swim on one side of the lane in one direction, and the other side in the other direction. Usually, this means staying to the left side of a lane. Each swimmer leaves 5 seconds apart so there is space between each person in the lane. This is referred to as “lane etiquette” which includes other matters involving common courtesy.
Clinic A scheduled meeting or session for the purpose of instruction.
Clock The big clock on the wall or deck is used for interval training. The red hand goes around every minute (60 seconds). The 60 is sometimes referred to as the “top” and the 30 as the “bottom.” Swimmers should learn to calculate their times. Swimmers who watch the clock and know their times improve the most: they get feedback, learn pace, and improve technique.
Comfort zone That state of mind and emotion which says your preparation effort and application is GOOD ENOUGH. Comfort zones are guaranteed to rapidly result in stagnation and deterioration. Stagnation may indeed be good enough if your goals are low, but deterioration is fatal and will only be a matter of an unknown number of days away – certainly less than you think.
Cool Down See Warm Down.
Count Strokes See “distance per stroke” drill and “Golf”.
Course Designated distance (length of pool) for swimming competition. (i.e.) Long Course = 50 metres / Short Course = 25 metres.
Critical velocity (V-CRIT) The maximum speed which you can sustain without slowing down because of fatigue. Critical velocity, or V-CRIT, is dependent on distance; the longer the distance the slower the V-CRIT. so it is the highest speed you can hold for the rest of the distance still to be swum. If you go faster than that, physiology being what it is, you will have to slow down more than you have speeded up and, mathematics being what it is, your average speed will be slower. As the distance still to be swum shortens the highest speed you can hold rises, therefore you NEGATIVE SPLIT the swim. Let’s repeat that; as the distance still to be swum shortens the highest speed you can hold rises. You should, therefore, always be accelerating and there should never be a time when you could go faster and still accelerate. Most world records have been set using negative split strategies. The limiting factor to critical velocity in a well-conditioned swimmer is the ability of the muscle fibres, nerve endings and pain tolerance to deal with the amount of LACTIC ACID in the muscles.
Crossover Turn In the Individual Medley, a type of turn used in the Backstroke to Breaststroke transition. The swimmer approaches the wall on the back and executes a modified flip turn such that as he/she reaches the wall at the vertical then rotates to the breast and pushes off.
Cruise Interval Is the cruise speed plus the amount of rest each is required to have, thereby constituting a send-off time suited to each individual. Cruise interval is the time that allows you to swim 100 metres of freestyle at least ten times comfortably with a low heart rate when you have 7- 10 seconds rest between each 100. For example, a 1:30 cruise swimmer is a swimmer who swims 100’s comfortably in 1:20-1:23 and departs (has a send-off) on a 1:30 interval. For this swimmer, 1:30 is called the cruise send-off interval.
Cruise Speed Is the speed at which the swimmer must complete the distance
Current status The physiological or psychological assessment of your abilities in respect to the requirements of your goal performance.
Cycle The time-period over which the training work-load is systematically balanced to produce adaptation and improved performance.(See also MACRO-, MESO-, MICRO-CYCLE)
Deck The area around the swimming pool reserved for swimmers, officials, and coaches during a swim competition
Dehydration The abnormal depletion of body fluids (water). The most common cause of swimmers cramps
Descend Swimming each distance faster than the previous in a set of repetitive distances. For example, descending 3×100 means each 100 is faster than the previous.


A set during which the interval (swim time plus rest) decreases with each repeat. A descending-interval set of 5 x 100 may have send offs of 2:00, 1:55, 1:50, 1:45 and 1:40.
Descending Sets A series where you swim faster on each repetition of the set. For example: swim slow 50, counting strokes; swim same speed with fewer strokes; swim 2 seconds faster with the fewer strokes, rest and do the 3×50 five times, each slow, slow with fewer strokes and faster with same stroke count.  Any distance can be used for several repeats and then start from the top. (See also NEGATIVE SPLIT)
Diastolic blood pressure

(See also Systolic)

Also increase with age and during exercise, but not to the same degree as “systolic pressure”. It is also the second figure in measuring blood pressure.
Disqualifications (DQ’S) Stroke and turn judges watch each race. Swimmers with improper form or technique are disqualified and told why. Swimmers should not be discouraged by a DQ. Most team members have had the same experience. Pay close attention to the judge’s remarks and work hard on stroke perfection in practice. Swimmers may swim the remaining events that day and may enter the same event at the next meet.
Disqualified (DQ) A swimmers performance is not counted because of a rules infraction. A disqualification is shown by an official raising one arm with open hand above their head.
Distance Per Stroke (DPS) Drill for all strokes that encourages you to lengthen each stroke. Count the  umber of strokes you need to complete, say, 25 metres. Now swim the same distance, but extend your reach and lengthen your glide so that you can complete the same distance with one fewer stroke. Repeat several times, reducing your stroke count by one each time.
Dive Entering the water head first. Hand on hand position – streamlined. Diving is not allowed during warm-ups except at designated times, in specific lanes that are monitored.
Dog Paddle The swimmer lies on his chest and moves his hands and legs alternately exactly as a dog does when swimming.
Dolphin kick Kick used in butterfly, some breaststroke drills, and following underwater backstroke and freestyle turns. The legs kick in unison and the body moves in a smooth undulating motion.
Drafting Swimming immediately behind another swimmer in order to take advantage of the forward current created by the first swimmer.
Drag The resistance to movement of a swimmer through water. Although drag can never be eliminated, it can be vastly reduced by improving the efficiency of your stroke and by paying attention to your body’s streamline. (See also FORM DRAG, FRICTION DRAG, STREAMLINING, WAVE DRAG)
Drag Suit A second loose fitting swim suit worn by swimmers in workout and warm-up to add a certain amount of weight and resistance to the flow of the water around the swimmer.
Drills Movement patterns, usually isolated portions of the full stroke or incongruous combinations, used to emphasize a particular part of the whole movement or enhance kinaesthetic awareness of water pressure.
Dropped Elbow The opposite of the high elbow and ineffective for powerful propulsion through the water.
Ear Plugs Plugs to keep water out of the swimmer’s ear. Reportedly helps to prevent ear infections.
Electronic Timing Timing system operated on DC current (Battery). The timing system usually has touchpads in the water, junction boxes on the deck with hook up cables, buttons for back up timing, and a computer type console that prints out the results of each race. Some systems are hooked up to a scoreboard that displays swimmers.
Eligibility The status of being appropriately qualified to practice or race. One of the INGREDIENTS of swimming fastest and the most frequently overlooked.
Endurance The ability to repeat movement patterns or sustain exercise for long periods. (See also SPEED-ENDURANCE, STAMINA)
Excellence The quality displayed by those seriously pursuing perfection. Excellence is not about what you do but how you do it. Excellence is within the grasp of everyone all of the time.
Faertlek or Speed play During continuous swim vary pace from slow to moderate to fast. Example 1S, 2M, 2F, 2M, 1S. Or within the swim “time” some distances.
Failing adaptation syndrome The insidious deterioration, and eventual breakdown of the efficient functioning of the body. Caused by the failure to adapt to a series of cumulative stresses. (See also OVER-TRAINING)
False Start Any swimmer starting before the staring signal has been given shall be disqualified
False Start Rope A recall rope across the width of the racing pool for the purpose of stopping swimmers who were not aware of a false start.
FINA Federation Internationale de National de Amateur, the international governing body of competitive swimming, diving, water polo and synchronized swimming. The international, rules making organisation, for the sport of swimming.
Fingertip drag Freestyle drill in which you drag your fingertips along the water surface recovery. Helps you to learn to keep your elbows up during recovery. (See also Thumb Tip Drag)
Fins Large rubber fin type devices that fit on a swimmers feet. Used in swim practice, not competition.
Fist Swimming Swimming with hands completely in a fist.
Flags See “Backstroke Flags”
Flexibility The quality of having a large range of movement in the joints and ligaments.  ssential for placing and holding the limbs in effective anchoring and propulsion-producing positions. One of the INGREDIENTS of swimming fastest. (See also STRETCHING)
Flutter kick The basic kick used in freestyle and backstroke, in which the legs move alternatively up and down
Fly See “Butterfly”
Form drag Resistance caused by the shape of your body which you present to the water. Long, thin bodies create less form drag than short, wide or fat bodies. Swimmers should minimise their form drag by always making their LENGTH- WIDTH RATIO as large as possible. (See also DRAG, FRICTION DRAG, STREAMLINING, WAVE DRAG)
Four Beat Kick 4 leg movements per arm stroke in freestyle. Similarly 2 and 6 beat kicks may be used.
Freestyle A word almost always used to denote FRONT-CRAWL, the most commonly used swimming stroke. Literally, freestyle means any combination of movement patterns except in INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY events where it means any stroke except BUTTERFLY, BACKSTROKE and BREASTSTROKE. The initial position in freestyle is on the breast, with both arms stretched to the front and the legs extended to the back. Swam as the fourth stroke in the Medley Relay and the fourth stroke in the I.M.
Freestyle Relay Four swimmers on each team, each swimmer swims one fourth of the distance using any desired stroke.
Friction drag Resistance caused by movement of the water across the surface of the body. (See also DRAG, FORM DRAG, SHAVING, STREAMLINING, WAVE DRAG)
Goggles Glasses type devices worn by swimmers to keep their eyes from being irritated by chlorine and other chemicals in the water
Golf While swimming 50’s repeats, calculate your “score” for each 50 by counting your strokes in both directions (one arm equals one stroke) and adding it to your time. For example: If you swim 50 freestyle with 20 strokes per 25 in a time of 0:40, you would have a score of 80 (20 + 20 + 40). Descend your score by taking less strokes and/or completing the 50 in less seconds with each successive 50.
Gravity Wave Wave action caused by the swimmers’ bodies moving through the water. Gravity wave move down and forward from the swimmer, bounce off the bottom of the pool and return to the surface in the form of turbulence.
Gutter The area at the edges of the pool in which water overflows and is recirculated into the pool. Deep gutters catch surface wave and don’t allow them to wash back into the pool and affect races. Alternatively a pool may have no gutter and be deck level.
Head bangers Freestyle drill in which you brush your thumb along side of your head just before the hand enters the water. Helps you learn to keep your hands from crossing the midline when they enter the water.
Heart Rate
Monitoring Procedure
(1) Use index and middle fingers to find pulse (never use the thumb as you may feel its own pulse.) (2) The radial pulse is beside the crease lines at the wrist, on the same side as thumb. (3) The carotid pulse is on either side of the windpipe (only check one side at one time.)
Heart rate The speed, measured in beats per minute (BPM) at which the heart pulses blood around the body via the CARDIO-VASCULAR SYSTEM. (See also Pulse Rate, MHR, THR, RHR)
Heart Rate Monitoring After interval repeat swim, take your heart rate for 10 seconds then multiply by 6 to get number of beats per minute (BPM).
Heat A division of an event into a series of races.  Each race is one heat.  Heats are needed when more swimmers enter a race than there are lanes available in the pool.
High Elbow May refer to keeping a high elbow in the recovery phase of freestyle which encourages better balance and body roll. High elbow can refer the pull phase of freestyle where the elbow remains in a higher position over the hand, giving the sensation of reaching over a barrel when pulling through the water.
Hypothermia Occurs when the body’s core temperature drops too low.
Hypoxic training Forces the body to adapt to oxygen debt by limiting breathing per stroke. Carefully monitor with adult and older swimmers. Use more than 6 to 7 days before competition.
Individual Medley (IM) All four of the competitive strokes are swum by one swimmer in the following order: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle.
IM with alternate lengths Free IM with even lengths freestyle. A 200 IM with alternate lengths freestyle would be 25 Fly – 25 Free – 25 back – 25 free – 25 breast – 25 free – 25 free – 25 free.
Inspector of Turns (Swim Meet) Officials at both ends of the pool who monitor for correct turns and touches by the swimmer.
Interval In repetitive distances, the time you are allowed for the swim and left over for the rest. For example, 100’s on a 1:50 interval means that every 1:50 you start swimming another 100.
Interval training
(Max 40 to 60% of workout)
Anaerobic benefit
That method of training in which regularly repeated periods of exercise at less than maximum intensity alternating with specific periods of rest, sufficiently short so as not to allow full or even nearly full recovery from the preceding span of exercise.
Isometric Isometric exercise is a form of physical exercise in which the muscles flex and hold a stationary position. No movement of a load takes place, and the exercises require little in the way of equipment. An example of an isometric exercise is placing the palms of the hands against each other and pushing. Isometric exercises are primarily used in physiotherapy and injury rehabilitation because the intensity can be rapidly and precisely adjusted, which makes them very safe. They are now rarely used outside this context. Strength training using isometric exercises was popularised by Charles Atlas from the 1930s onwards.
Isotonic An isotonic cellular environment occurs when an equal solute concentration exists inside and outside the cell. Molecules flow in and out at an equal rate by osmosis, causing the cell size to stay the same. It will not lose or gain any solutes.
Judge of Stroke
(Swim Meet)
A certified official who determines the legality of swimmers’ strokes and disqualifies those who do not conform to the FINA or Masters Swimming rules.
Kick A drill for improving the efficiency and strength of your kick. Depending on the stroke and the particular drill, the arms may either be in streamline position, at your sides, or holding a kickboard.
Kick Board Training tool used to keep the arms still so that focus may be placed on the legs.
Lactate The name used when low-energy LACTIC ACID is present in the bloodstream
Lactic acid In the absence of oxygen, as with anaerobic training, the body will breakdown muscle sugar (glycogen) using a process that produces an acidic by-product waste called lactic acid. The muscles may start to burn or ache as lactic acid accumulates and the body can’t keep up with removing it from the muscle stores. Also the chemical formed in the muscle when glycogen breaks down to produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate) in the absence of oxygen. Large quantities can paralyse the muscle action. (See also ANAEROBIC)
Lactate Tolerance
Training during which the body experiences a lack of oxygen, resulting in the production of lactic acid. During the production of lactic acid, the swimmer typically experiences a burning or aching sensation in the muscles.
Ladder (Sets) Increase or decrease the metres, either straight like 400, 300, 200, 100 or 4×100, 4×75, 4×50, 4×25, or 4×100, 3×100, 2×100, 100, or mix them or reverse the order
Lane The area a swimmer is assigned to swim. Lanes are numbered right to left.
Lane Etiquette Common courtesies including starting 5 seconds apart; moving over at end of lap to allow faster swimmers to pass; moving to side of lane at finish to allow other swimmers to finish touch to the wall.
Lane Ropes The dividers used to delineate the individual lanes. These are made of individual finned disks strung on a cable which rotate on the cable when hit by a wave. The rotating disks dissipate surface tension waves in a competitive pool.
Lap One length of the course. Sometimes may also mean down and back (2 lengths) of the course.
Lap Counter The large numbered cards (or the person turning the cards) used during the freestyle events 400 metres or longer. Counting is done from the starting end.
Lateral Swimmer is on his/her side.
Lateral Deviation The body moves through the water sideways instead of only moving forwards. This action occurs for a number of reasons: The recovering arm is swinging around the body and crossing the centre line, the hands are pulling across the centre line, one hand/arm is pulling wider than the other and the final reason is that you are only breathing to one side.
Leg The part of a relay event swam by a single team member. A single stroke in the I.M.
Length The length of the pool. In a short course pool, one length is 25 metres.
Length-width ratio The relationship between the length and width of a swimmer’s body as presented to the water. The length is measured between the most extreme points, say the fingertips of one hand and the toes of the foot on the same side. The width is also measured between the most extreme points, say the front and back of the thorax when breathing on FREESTYLE. If you have rotated far enough around the LINE this would present a narrower shape than if you stayed flat, therefore less DRAG. (See also ROLL, PITCH, YAW)
Line An imaginary line drawn through the CENTER OF BUOYANCY and the CENTER OF GRAVITY. Minimum WAVE DRAG is produced when this line is kept parallel to the water surface and perpendicular to the turning walls. (See also ROLL, PITCH, YAW)
Long Axis Covers Freestyle and Backstroke (See also Short Axis)
Long Course
also Short Course)
A type of competitive pool that measures 50 metres in length. The standard size for all International competition and all World Record swims is the 50-metre course.
Lycra A stretch material used to make competitive swim suits and swim caps.
Main Set The central (and usually longest and most challenging) set in a workout, which characterizes the purpose of the entire workout.
Masters Swimming Australia Masters Swimming Australia Inc. (MSA) is the peak body for adult swimmers aged 18 and above. It is a non-government, not for profit organisation, constituted in 1975. Masters Swimming Australia Inc. used to be referred to as “AUSSI”, which is an acronym for “Australian Union of Senior Swimmers International”. This acronym was dropped from the name in October 2009. The organisation does not receive funding from any government source, however some Branches are eligible for and receive funding from State Governments.
Masters Swimming Australia’s mission is to provide at club, state and national level an environment to encourage all adults, regardless of ability, to swim regularly and compete in order to promote fitness and improve their general well being.
Masters Swimming Australia’s motto is “fitness, friendship and fun”.
Marks The command to take your starting position.
(Swim Meet)
The adult(s) (official/s) who control the crowd and swimmer flow at a swim meet.
Marshalling Area An area at the meet where swimmers report before their event to be arranged into their heat and lane assignments.
Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) Your maximum heart rate (MHR) can be estimated by subtracting your age from 220. It is inadvisable for the unfit or older person to attempt working at MHR as this places too much stress on the heart. (See Target Heart Rate and Resting Heart Rate)
Medley Relay Four swimmers on each team, each swimmer swims one fourth of the prescribed distance continuously in the following order: backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and freestyle.
Meet Series of events usually held in one program determining the basis of competition.
Meet Director
(Aussi Masters)
Supervises the organisation and conduct of the Meet; and uphold the provisions of the National Safety Policy.
Middle Distance Term used to refer to events of 200 metres to 400 metres in length.
Mile Imperial measure often referring to the 1500 metre freestyle, which is slightly short of a mile.
Mixed Relays Mixed relays consist of two women and two men in any order.
Motivation The reason why a swimmer decides, or otherwise, to prepare to perform. (See also AROUSAL)
Negative Split Swimming the second lap or set distance of a swim faster than the previous. For example, negative splits on a 100m swim means the last 50m of the swim was faster than the first 50m. (See also DESCENDING SET)
Neurological System Training Training that focuses on improving the reaction time at the site at which the motor neuron communicates with the muscle fibre. Super short sprints or spin drills help train this system.
Nutrition The health and vitality content of food.
(Branch Sanctioned Meets)
Meet Director (1); Referee (1); Judges of Stroke (2); Inspector of Turns (2 – one at each end of the pool); Starter (1); Recorders (2); Marshal (1); Check Starter (1); Chief Timekeeper (1); Timekeepers (3 per lane); AOE/SAT Operator (1 if AOE is available); Runner (1); Announcer (1)
Open Turn One type of turn used in Butterfly and Breaststroke. The swimmer touches the wall with both hands simultaneously, rotates, and pushes off with the feet.
Open Water Open Water swims are competitions held in an outdoor lake, river, or ocean for distances greater than most pool events.
Out slow back faster
First half of distance swum slowly or moderate pace, second half faster.
Steady Pace
The most popular form of overdistance swimming. Even pace enable distance swum with same time per segment. Steady pace is a better method in terms of energy efficiency.
Overdistance interval training Overdistance benefits by swimming it in the interval training method. Instead of 2400m continuous, swim 3x800m with 60 sec rest
Overdistance monitored by pulse rate Monitoring pulse rate enables you to see if you are working hard enough. As overdistance swimming is now done at full effort pulse rates will vary.
Overdistance training
(Heart conditioned by keeping pulse elevated)
Where you swim longer than race distances so that you achieve general body conditioning for shorter events. Body adapts to long continuous periods of moderately increased heart rate, hence developing aerobic fitness.
Over-training The term given to the failure of the body to cope with repeated high-intensity exercise, usually caused by inadequate quality or quantity of recovery. (See also FAILING ADAPTATION SYNDROME)
Pace Clock See “Clock”
Paddle Coloured plastic devices worn on the swimmers hands during swim practice.
Pattern Repeating Pattern of kicking, drills or strokes over a given distance
PB: ‘Personal Best’ The best time a swimmer has done so far in a particular stroke/event
Perfection The unattainable goal of every performance. (See also EXCELLENCE)
Periodisation The grouping of complementary types of exercise into periods of training.
Piece In a workout, a basic unit of swimming exercises that, when added together, constitute a set. Example: The set “2 X 100 kick, 3 X 50 swim” consists of two 100 metre pieces, followed by three 50 metre pieces.
Pitch 1. “See-saw” movement of the body around the horizontal axis of the LINE. (See also ROLL, YAW) 2. The angle at which the hand and the direction of relative water movement interface during swimming movement patterns.
Points chart The annual statistical comparison of performances across gender, stroke and distance compiled by Nick Thierry and published by FINA/ISSA. (See also SWIMNEWS)
Postal Swim Competition in which one swims in a home venue, then sends in the results to be compared to other competing swimmers doing the same.
Power The combination of STRENGTH and speed of movement. One of the INGREDIENTS of swimming fastest. Extremely difficult to measure for swimmers, usually inferred from land-based measurements taken on a SWIM BENCH.
Prone Position Swimmer lies on front.
Propulsion This is the force that drives the swimmer forward and is created by the swimmer’s arms and legs.
Progressive Means that within each interval you swim progressively faster. So a “4×200 Progressive” means each 200 is swum progressively. The first 50 is easy, then the second 50 is faster, the third 50 is faster still, and the last 50 is flat out. Repeat this 4 times.
Psychological skills The ability to use a combination of mental and emotional energies. One of the INGREDIENTS of swimming fastest which allows you to use all the other ingredients effectively.
Pull 1. The most powerful part of the stroke during which the arm(s) pull back through the water, propelling the body forward.
2. A drill for strengthening the arms, in which kicking is curtailed. May or may not involve the use of flotation buoys (“pull buoys”) between the legs.
Pull Buoy A flotation device used for pulling by swimmers in practice
Pullout In breaststroke turns, the actions immediately following push-off from the wall: streamline glide, one pull, and one kick.
Pulse Rate Average pulse is around 65 to 70 beats per minute.
Pyramid (Sets) Swim distances up and down, such as 8×50, 4×100, 2×200, 1×400, and back down. Also swimming up in small distance increases; then rest before swimming down in less stages of larger distance decreases.
Race Pace Training Swimming in a workout that simulates the speed at which a swimmer will compete.
Rainbow set A practice set which moves through the intensity levels represented by colours illustrating the changing appearance of your body during exercise – white, pink, red, purple, blue, green, diced carrot.
Recall Rope See “False Start Rope”
Recipe The manner in which the INGREDIENTS of swimming fastest are combined, especially in a race. (See also TAPER, STRATEGY, REST, TACTICS)
Record Keeper Individual in charge of keeping individual and team record times.
Recovery The non-power portion of the arm stroke, during which the arms move forward before the start of the next pull.
Recovery heart rate (rhr) The speed at which the heart rate falls and “plateaus” after intensive exercise. If the RHR is unusually high after a standard time, say one minute, it may indicate that you are starting to get sick or in danger of becoming OVER-TRAINED.
Recovery intervals A sudden stop and complete rest is not as advantageous as slow movement, which facilitates blood flow to remove wastes and replenish oxygen supplies. Include adequate cool-down swim.
(Swim Meet)
The official who has authority over all other officials at a meet.  He enforces

all rules, decides all questions about conduct of the meet, and is responsible for the efficient running of the meet.

Relay An event where four swimmers are part of a single, team oriented event. Medley Relay is Backstroke, Breaststroke, Butterfly, Freestyle. Also Freestyle Relay with 4 swimmers each swimming freestyle for one leg each
Relay exchange The exchange between the swimmer in the water and the next swimmer on the relay team. A perfect exchange will simultaneously have the finishing swimmer’s hand on the touch pad and the sorting swimmer’s feet just touching the starting block with the rest of the starting swimmer’s body extended over the water.
Repeat Rest A specified time, e.g. swim ten times 50 metres, rest 15 seconds between each swim.
Repetition training
(Improves anaerobic capacity)
That method of training in which regularly repeated periods of exercise at very high intensity alternate with specific periods of rest, long enough to allow virtually full recovery from the preceding span of exercise.
1.  The ability to respond (Response-ability) appropriately to a stimulus.
2.  The act of owning the consequences of your actions.
Rest Part of the RECIPE for swimming fastest. The action of allowing the body to recover from intensive or extensive work in preparation for the next effort. (see also TAPER)
Rest Interval RI = the rest time after swimming a certain distance. Typically 10s RI = rest for 10 seconds at the end of each distance.
Resting Heart Rate (RHR) A drop of approx 40 beats per minute (BPM) within 2 minutes of completion of exercise would indicate a fair standard of fitness. Heart and lung efficiency and fitness are indicated by a quick return to the pre-exercise heart rate (resting heart rate).
Reverse IM Individual medley, in reverse order: freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke, and butterfly. (Sometimes written as IM-1.)
Roll Rotational movement of the body around horizontal axis of the LINE. (See also PITCH, YAW)
Rotate/Rotation Moving in one line of the body’s axis.
(Swim Meet)
Shall: collect all recorded times from the Lane Timekeepers after each heat and return them to the Recorder; and if required, distribute time recording slips to Lane Timekeepers.
SC Stroke cycle, one sc equals two arm strokes
Scissor Kick Kick performed while on the side.
Scratch To withdraw from a race by announcing to the Clerk of Course the intention not to swim one or more races.
Sculling Sculling is performed by sweeping your hands through the water, holding your elbows still.
Seeding The process by which a swimmer is assigned a certain lane and heat in an event.  Competitors are assigned to lanes based on their seed times.
Send-off Time to begin each repeat of a set. If 8 x 100 on 1:20 and swimmer comes in on 1:15 then 5 second rest before next “Send-off”.
Set In a workout, a series of one or more pieces chosen and arranged to focus a particular aspect of swimming (e.g., warm-up, distance, duration, sprinting, technique, etc.).
Sets – Formats See Descending, Ladder, Pyramid, SKPS, Straight/Broken Sets
Shaving The act of shaving the hairs from the body in order to reduce FRICTION DRAG and enhance the sensation of speed.
Short Axis Covers Breaststroke and Butterfly (See also Long Axis)
Short Course
also Long Course)
A type of competitive pool, which measures 25 metres.
Sidestroke Completely on one side, one arm does upper half stroke, other lower, scissors kick
SKPS Swim – Kick – Pull – Swim
Specific Distance If you are training for a 100m event then you should swim that distance. There are various methods to achieve that, you don’t have to swim just 100m always).
Specific Pace During the last few weeks before an event training should become pace specific so you know how it feels to swim at the pace required.
Specific Stroke If you have a particular event in mind, you must swim that specific stroke when training
Specificity Means to train for your event or your specific purpose.
Speed 1.  The distance-time measurement (e.g. meters per second) of your ability to move through the water, usually expressed in time per race distance (e.g. 1:02.16 for 100m)
2.  The quality of moving very fast, usually only possible for a short time or distance. One of the INGREDIENTS of swimming fastest. (See also POWER)
Speed-endurance The ability to repeat fast movement patterns or sustain intensive exercise for long periods. The main goal of most swimming training. (See also ENDURANCE, STAMINA)
Splits A per lap time recorded to identify the concept of pacing.  For instance, a swimmer’s time for each 25-metre leg of a 100m event are his or her four splits. The four splits add up to the total time for the 100m event.
Sprint Describes the shorter events (50 and 100). In training, to swim as fast as possible for a short distance.
Sprint training Like repetition training, sprint training operates on the principle of stress through intense speed, which means it builds strength and power (anaerobic capacity) rather than endurance (aerobic capacity). Rest period and distance are shorter than repetition training.
SPull Pattern A method of pulling in freestyle swimming that encourages and outward and inward sweeping motion of the hand and arms rather then a straight back (point A to point B) motion. Allows for the arms to travel a greater distance through the water and results in greater distance per stroke. The “S” pull pattern also encourages better body roll.
Stamina Sometimes used instead of SPEED-ENDURANCE. One of the INGREDIENTS of swimming fastest. (See also ENDURANCE)
Stand Up The command given by the Starter or Referee to release the swimmers from their starting position.
Standard test set A periodically administered set to monitor your CURRENT STATUS in AEROBIC, AEROBIC-ANAEROBIC or ANAEROBIC exercise. Used as part of the on-going ASSESSMENT and periodic EVALUATION processes.
Start On the long whistle from the Referee (SW 9.4.6), swimmers shall take up their starting position. For freestyle, breaststroke, butterfly and individual medley they may start from either the starting platform, the pool deck or in the water. At least one foot shall be at the front of the starting platform or the edge of the pool deck unless starting in the water. If starting in the water at least one hand must be in contact with either the pool deck or starting grips. For backstroke including medley teams, on the second long whistle both hands must be in contact with the pool deck or starting grips. On the Starter’s command “take your marks” swimmers shall immediately take up a starting position. When all swimmers are stationary, the Starter shall give the starting signal (shot, horn, whistle or command).

(Swim Meet)

The official at a meet responsible for the proper, legal start of each race. STARTER shall: have full control of the swimmers from the time the Referee turns the swimmers over to him
Starts There are several variations of starts used.  Some are:
Grab – Swimmer grabs front of block to pull forward. This allows a swimmer to enter more quickly.
Track – Swimmer stands with one foot back.  For many this may mean better balance.
Swing – Swimmer swings arms to build up momentum.  Slower than a grab start but carries a swimmer out farther. Most often used in relays.
Step up – A relay start where the swimmer steps forward while swinging their arms. Timing is more difficult than the swing start but speed is increased.
Step test A periodically administered series of swims, usually 200m, of systematically increasing speed, used to ascertain the relationship between effort, measured by LACTIC ACID, and SPEED.
Step-Down The command given by the Starter or Referee to have the swimmers move off the blocks. Usually this command is a good indication everything is not right for the race to start.
Stop Watch The hand held device used by timers and coaches for timing a swimmers races and taking splits.
Stop-stop-switch (“SSS”) Freestyle drill to develop balance and a good body roll. Kick on your left side for three kicks, then turn your head down to prone position for three kicks (“stop”). Recover your right arm and keep it extended in front, joining the left arm in streamline position. Hold arms there for three kicks (“stop”). Take a stroke and roll to your right side (“switch”). Repeat on alternate sides. (Note that “SSS” is different from “3S”!)


Swim sets that alternate, for example, 500, 10×50, 400, 8×50, 300, 6×50, etc.  You can SKPS on the straight yardage, and swim on the broken
Streamline 1. A body position that permits the smooth and efficient passage of water along your body as you swim, thus minimizing your drag in the water. An important consideration in every stroke!
2. A low-drag body position in which the arms are extended straight ahead, usually with the hands placed one atop the other or palm-to-palm. Used mainly during kick drills and immediately after turns (before breakout).
Strength The ability to produce tension in muscle fibers. Usually measured by how much weight you can lift or prevent from falling towards the center of the earth. (See also POWER)
Stretching The action of moving a limb to the limit of its’ range of movement or lengthening a muscle to maintain fibre elasticity or tonicity. (See also FLEXIBILITY)
Stroke Cycle


The fundamental basic unit of swimming, comprising the movements from any point in the coordinated, cyclical movement of arms and legs to the same point one cycle later. (See also STROKE LENGTH, STROKE RATE)
Stroke Length (SL) The length the body travels during one complete stroke cycle.
Stroke Rate The amount of time taken for one complete stroke cycle.
Strokes There are four official racing strokes: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and


Super-compensation Process occurring during the TAPER parts of the MACRO-CYCLE which span UNLOADING and PEAKING. Changes accumulated during training are allowed to take full effect by the absence of further deleterious stimulus. (See also REST)
Supine Swimmer lies on back.
Swimbench A land-based machine that simulates the effect of swimming movements. – electronic publisher of Swimming World, Swim and Swimming Technique magazines, containing essential information for any swimming coach.
Swimmer’s Log Book In all types of competition, keeping accurate records of race results for each stroke at each distance is very important.
Swimmer’s Shoulder
Usually refers to tenderness and soreness in the shoulders caused by repetitive use (arm overhead). In most cases, with proper care, exercises, and stroke technique, even severe tendonitis can be controlled. – one of the most valuable sites on the internet for swimming enthusiasts, containing news, rankings, meet results and over 400 links to other swimming-related sites.
Systolic blood pressure (See also Diastolic) The resting systolic blood pressure increases with age as it also does during exercise and is the first figure in measuring blood pressure. (At 25 years, normal blood pressure is around 120/80).
Taper Taper includes UNLOADING, PEAKING and RESTING and comprises the progressive reduction of the training load and gathering of the body’s psycho-physiological energies in order to produce the optimum combination of skills and abilities on race day. Part of the RECIPE for swimming fastest. (See also SUPER-COMPENSATION)
Taper format 10 days to a week before an event; ‘mini’ taper 3 days before an event. Long warm-up swim; few short first swims at race speed with practice on starts and turns and a thorough cool-down
Target Heart Rate (THR) Your target heart rate (THR) will vary according to age and fitness level but is in the range of 60 to 85% of MAXIMUM HEART RATE. It is the degree a heart rate should reach and be sustained over a period if a training effect is required. (See Maximum Heart Rate and Resting Heart Rate)
Technical False Start The signal for a technical false start shall be the same as the starting signal but repeated together with dropping of the false start rope. Alternatively, if the Referee decides that the start is a technical false start, he shall blow his whistle, which shall be followed by the Starter’s signal (repeated) and dropping of the false start rope.
Technical skills Skills acquired during the training process, including the combination of movement patterns applicable to each stroke and the gymnastic movements used at the start and turns. One of the INGREDIENTS of swimming fastest.
Thumb Tip Drag Drill training (usually freestyle) where recovery ends with high elbow lift followed by thumb tip dragging through water as arm moves forward to stroke. (Also Finger Tip Drag)
(Swim Meet)
Volunteers sitting behind the starting blocks/finish end of the pool, who are responsible for getting watch times on events and activating the backup buttons for the timing system. They should not clear their watches until they have received the “clear watches” signal from the Chief Timekeeper or Referee.
Time Trial An event or series of events where a swimmer may achieve or better a required time standard.
Tootsie Roll Backstroke drill for practicing body roll. Swim on back with your arms at your side. Keeping head level, swim with one shoulder turned upward then, after six kicks, roll your body (starting from your hips) to turn the opposite shoulder upward.
Top Ten The fastest ten times recorded in competition. For example, the National Top Ten lists the fastest 10 times swum in the country during a year for each particular event and age group.
Touch The finish of the race.
Touch Pad The removable plate (on the end of pools) that is connected to an automatic timing system. A swimmer must properly touch the touch pad to register an official time in a race.
Track Start Swimmer stands on block/edge, one foot in front with toes over edge, other foot behind, hands holding onto block.
Training model The weekly or yearly plan of the frequency, volume and intensity of exercise. A model assumes optimum conditions and has to be modified to suit circumstances.
Training phase (See PERIODISATION)
Transition 1. The moment of change from the phase of a dive or turn when propulsion is the result of a single leg thrust from the starting block or wall to the swimming phase when propulsion is produced by repeated movements of the arms and legs. The timing and coordination of this change is critical to the effort required in order to attain and maintain your speed on the subsequent lap.
2. The physiological balance point where energy replacement during exercise changes from predominantly AEROBIC to predominantly ANAEROBIC. (See also ANAEROBIC THRESHOLD)
(“3S or “TRS”)
Freestyle drill based on stop-stop-switch. Instead of turning to breathe during the “switch”, take three strokes and breathe on the third stroke. A good way to incorporate bilateral breathing into your drill. (Note that “3S” is differentfrom “SSS”!)
Trudgeon Crawl Same as freestyle, but with scissors kick
Tumble Turn One type of turn used in Freestyle and Backstroke.  Just as the swimmer approaches the wall, they tuck their body into a somersault, quickly roll toward the wall and push off with their feet.
Turns A somersault used to turn in freestyle and backstroke. Open – Grabbing the wall with one hand (free and back) or two hands (breast and fly).  Must be used in breast, fly and most IM turns.
TV4 The time corresponding to V4.
V4 The velocity, or speed, at which 4mMol/l of lactic acid is produced. (See also STEP TEST, TV4)
Variable A set consisting of four pieces that are to be swum in the following order: build (increase speed), reduce (decrease speed), slow, and fast. Example: “4 X 50 variable” means “In the first lap build from slow to fast, in the second lap reduce your speed to slow, in the third lap swim slow, and in the last lap swim fast.”
Varied Pace See Faertlek (Swedish term)
Veins Carry blood from Body back to Heart. (See arteries)
VO2 Max
(maximal oxygen uptake)
The maximal capacity for oxygen consumption by the body during maximal exertion.
YAW Movement of the body across the lateral plane of the LINE. (See also ROLL, PITCH)
Warm Down
or Cool Down
A slow swim aimed at ridding the body of excess lactic acid generated during a race or training session. Also to achieve reducing heart beat.
Warm-up An easy pace set that gives your muscles a chance to warm up, stretch, and loosen before the main set. An important part of every workout.
Watch See “Stop Watch”
Wave Drag Resistance caused by movement of the shape of the body in the water. At speeds above 1m/s (which is very slow swimming) this is the largest hindrance to your forward movement. (See also DRAG, FORM DRAG, FRICTION DRAG, STREAMLINING)
Whip Kick Description of leg action in breaststroke.