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Swimming Glossary



    50, 100, 500, etc. - Distance, usually as part of a swim workout. Can be measured in yards or meters.


    A - USA Swimming classification for Age Group Swimmers. Time standards for this classification are .01 seconds faster than the BB time standard, and .01 seconds slower than the AA time standard. See USA Swimming's National Age Group Time Standards chart for current standards in specific events. See also: NAGTS.

    A Meet - Meet that requires swimmers to have achieved an A time in the event(s) they wish to race.

    A/B Meet - Meet that requires swimmers to have achieved an A or B time in the event(s) they wish to race. A swimmers and B swimmers race in separate categories.

    A/B/C Meet - Meet that has three categories of racing: swimmers who have achieved A times, swimmers who have achieved B times and C swimmers, who have not yet achieved B times in the event(s) they wish to race.

    AA - USA Swimming classification for Age Group Swimmers. Time standards for this classification are .01 seconds faster than the A time standard, and .01 seconds slower than the AAA time standard. See USA Swimming's National Age Group Time Standards chart for current standards in specific events. See also: NAGTS.

    AAA - USA Swimming classification for Age Group Swimmers. Time standards for this classification are .01 seconds faster than the AA time standard, and .01 seconds slower than the AAAA time standard. See USA Swimming's National Age Group Time Standards chart for current standards in specific events. See also: NAGTS.

    AAAA - The fastest USA Swimming classification for Age Group Swimmers. Time standards for this classification are .01 seconds faster than the AAA time standard. Any swimmer finishing in times faster than this class is nearing National cuts. See USA Swimming's National Age Group Time Standards chart for current standards in specific events. See also: NAGTS.

    Achiever Card - A card that proves a swimmers has achieved a certain time in their events. The card shows the swimmer's name, date and location of event, distance, stroke and the swimmer's time. The card must be signed by the meet referee.

    adapted swimming - See disability swimming.

    adaptive swimming - See disability swimming.

    add up - Refers to a relay team's entry time. Created by adding up the times of the four swimmers in their corresponding individual events.

    admission - Fee charged for spectator entry into the meet.

    aerobic base - See base.

    age group swimming - Aged-based competitive categories for youth racing. USA Swimming's National Age Group categories are: 10&under, 11-12, 13-14, 15-16, and 17-18. Other age group categories often used are: 8&under, 13&under, Pre-senior, Junior, and Senior.

    air exchange - Exchanging the carbon dioxide in the lungs for oxygen, or exhaling and inhaling. When coaches talk about a swimmer getting "good air exchange," they mean the swimmer is fully exhaling while their face is in the water, so that when the swimmer takes a breath they are taking in as much oxygen as possible. Good air exchange also means getting a clean breath and not choking on water.

    alternate breathing - See bilateral breathing.

    alternate(s) - At a prelims/finals meet, the swimmer(s) who are next-fastest after the finalists. If a finalist scratches or cannot race, the first alternate will take that swimmer's place. If a second swimmer scratches, the second alternate will be allowed to race. Relays also have alternate slots.

    Amplitude kick - The range of motion in the kick that moves in a waveform. This term is most often used in reference to the size of the dolphin kick.

    anaerobic interval training - Interval training that strengthens the anaerobic system. See anaerobic training.

    anaerobic training - Workouts or sets designed to stress/strengthen the body's anaerobic system. This training is characterized by short work intervals (typically less than two minutes) of maximum effort.

    anti-doping - The name given to national and international organizations that oversee the fight against doping in sports. These organizations test athletes in and out of competition to ensure they are not using prohibited, performance-enhancing substances. See banned substance.

    approved meet - USA Swimming's term for a non-sanctioned meet run in accordance with USA swimming rules. Certain USA Swimming officials must be present. Swimmers who are not USA Swimming members can compete.

    ASCA - Abbreviation for American Swimming Coaches Association. An organization of swimming coaches that provides certification courses, education, and other services for coaches in the United States. ASCA also hosts an annual conference that is open to coaches from around the world.

    ascend(ing) - Type of set where speed becomes slower as the set progresses, and the interval becomes longer.


    B - USA Swimming classification for Age Group Swimmers. Time standards for this classification are .01 seconds faster than the C time standard, and .01 seconds slower than the BB time standard. See USA Swimming's National Age Group Time Standards chart for current standards in specific events. See also: NAGTS.

    B Meet - Meet that requires swimmers to have achieved a B time in the event(s) they wish to race. When B meets have no "bottom" time cut, C swimmers may also enter the meet, but they must race against B swimmers.

    B/C Meet - Meet for swimmers who have achieved a B time in the events they wish to race, and for swimmers who race at the C level. B and C swimmers compete in separate categories. Swimmers are not allowed to compete in an event where they have already achieved an A time.

    backstroke - One of the 4 swimming strokes contested in meets. The primary rule is that swimmers must remain on their back for the entire race, with the exception of the last stroke before a flip turn. Backstroke is the 3rd stroke in the Individual Medley (IM) order, and it is the first leg of the Medley Relay. While the only distances contested at the Olympics are the 100 and 200 meters, swimmers of most ages and levels can compete in the 25 and 50 meters/yards as well.

    backstroke flags - See flags.

    backstroke start - Swimmers in a backstroke event begin in the water, with two feet on the wall (toes below the waterline) and holding onto the block. Some pools with gutters will allow younger swimmers to hold the gutter. If the meet uses touch pads, swimmers may be required to use the blocks.

    bands - See stretch cords.

    banned substance - Drugs, supplements or other substances that anti-doping agencies prohibit athletes from taking, either because the it is a performance-enhancer or because it is a "masking agent" that can interfere with the detection of other banned substances in the athlete's blood/urine sample.

    base - Also called aerobic base, this refers to the aerobic training done early in the season. Base training usually is characterized by a long period (6 to 12 weeks) of mostly low-intensity (low heart-rate), endurance-building workouts. Base training, as the name indicates, prepares a swimmer's body for the rest of the season's training.

    BB - USA Swimming classification for Age Group Swimmers. Time standards for this classification are .01 seconds faster than the B time standard, and .01 seconds slower than the A time standard. See USA Swimming's National Age Group Time Standards chart for current standards in specific events. See also: NAGTS.

    beep - The sound that signals the start of a race with an electronic timing system.

    best time - The fastest time a swimmer has ever achieved in an event. See "personal best."

    bilateral breathing - Breathing to both the left and the right in freestyle. Breathing every 3, 5, or 7 strokes.

    block(s) - The platform(s) at the end of each lane used to dive from at the start of a race. Blocks come in a variety of shapes and styles, some permanent and some movable. Most have either a horizontal bar or a cutout to use as a handhold on the backstroke start.

    blue zone - Term used by some coaches to describe a set that is of low aerobic intensity, such as warm-up or warm-down. See also green zone and red zone.

    body position - General term that describes how a swimmer floats in the water. Proficient swimmers have learned how to maintain a balanced body position at the surface of the water.

    body roll - Rotation around the body's "long axis," an imaginary line running down the spine from head to toe. Body roll is an essential component of efficient freestyle and backstroke.

    bonus heat - Also sometimes called consolation finals, this is an extra heat held during the finals session of a prelims/finals meet, usually for the swimmers who are next fastest after the top swimmers (who race in the finals heat). "Bonus heat" can also refer to the swimmers who are next fastest after the swimmers who are in the consolation finals heat.

    Bottom - Slang for the "30" on a pace clock at practice. Usage: "Let's start this set on the bottom."

    bow waves - The waves that a swimmer pushes ahead of him/her, similar to the waves that come off the bow of a boat.

    break out - The moment when a swimmers breaks the surface of the water after pushing off the wall or after their start. Generally refers to the transition from underwater kicking to swimming full strokes.

    breastroke kick - Sometimes called "frog kick" or "whip kick," the feet are brought "up, out, and around," and the legs apart and together symmetrically and simultaneously.

    breaststroke - One of the 4 swimming strokes contested in meets. While the only distances contested at the Olympics are the 100 and 200 meters, swimmers of most ages and levels can compete in the 25 and 50 meters/yards as well. A "short-axis" stroke, breaststroke is sometimes called "frog stroke" among beginning and recreational swimmers.

    build - To increase intensity and speed over the course of a swim. Can refer to one repeat or an entire set.

    bulkhead - A movable platform used to divide a large pool into two sections. Most commonly used to convert a long course pool into a short course pool.

    bull pen - USA Swimming's term for the staging area at a meet where swimmers gather to receive their heat and lane assignments. The bull pen is used at a deck-seeded meet.

    burn out - Physiological and mental result of a swimmer training too much or taking the sport too seriously. Burnout is often thought of as a mental challenge, but there are physical and physiological attributes of burnout as well.

    butterfly - One of the 4 swimming strokes contested in meets. Frequently called "fly" for short, the stroke is a "short-axis" stroke in which the feet must stay together, and both arms recover over the water simultaneously. Swimmers must touch the wall with two hands. Butterfly began as a form of breaststroke, and was legitimized as a unique stroke by FINA in the 1950s.

    button - Part of a computerized, electronic timing system. Every lane has buttons used by timing officials for manual timing of races.


    carbo loading - A strategy developed in the late 1960s to increase the amount of glycogen stored in an endurance athlete's muscles on the day of an important race. Although there are now several carbo loading strategies employed by athletes, all involve eating large amounts of carbohydrates (usually pasta) the night before the event. Today, carbo loading is generally only used by athletes competing in events that last more than an hour and a half.

    carbohydrates - A major energy source for the human body, carbohydrates are essential fuels for any athlete, including swimmers. Foods high in carbohydrates include breads, pastas, rice, cereals, beans and potatoes.

    catch - The moment when the hand enters the water and begins to pull the body forward. Also called the anchor or catch point.

    catch phase - The first part of the arm stroke, when the hand and arm first catch the water.

    catch-up - A common freestyle drill, in which one hand always remains in front of the head, just under the surface of the water. The left hand does not begin its stroke until the right hand taps it, and vice versa.

    championship meet - End-of-season meet. For most championship meets, swimmers must have achieved qualifying times in the events they wish to swim.

    check-in - What a swimmer must do when they arrive at a meet to verify with meet officials that they are present. (This is often called a positive check-in at USA Swimming meets.) If swimmers do not check-in at a deck-seeded meet, they will not be able to race. Check-in should be the very first thing swimmers do when they arrive at a meet.

    chlorine - Chemical most pools use to keep the water clean and free of bacteria.

    choice - Term used at practice to indicate that the swimmer may choose to swim any of the 4 competition strokes.

    circle seeding - A method of seeding preliminary heats in which the fastest swimmers race in the middle of the pool and in separate heats. For example, the three fastest swimmers are typically assigned to swim in lane 4 of the last three heats of an event. Seeding method varies according to the number of lanes in the pool.

    circle swimming - Swimming down one side of the lane, and back on the other side of the lane. This is the only way to swim safely when there are more than two people in a lane. In most countries, swimmers will go counter-clockwise (that is, always on the right side of the line down the center of the lane).

    clerk of the course - An official at swim meets. Responsibilities vary, but can include: making sure all swimmers are in the correct heat/lane prior to their race, seeding all heats, processing scratches, and posting heat/lane assignments.

    clinic - A meeting of swimmers, officials or coaches for the purpose of education, training, or instruction.

    closed competition - A competition or meet that is only open to members of a certain team or league. Most summer league meets are closed competitions.

    club - Another common way to refer to a swimming team. USA Swimming clubs are teams that are registered with (and paying dues to) USA Swimming and their LSC.

    club records - See team records.

    coach - Person responsible for running practices and managing teams. Coaches are responsible for writing workouts, helping swimmers identify and train for specific long-range and short-range goals, and ensuring safety during practices.

    code of conduct - Written set of expectations for appropriate and inappropriate behavior.

    code of ethics - USA Swimming sometimes asks coaches and swimmers to sign this at certain meets and events, as acknowledgment that they agree to some common sense behaviors.

    Colorado timing - One brand of electronic timing often used at swim meets.

    consolation finals - The next fastest swimmers in an event at a prelims/finals meet will often race in consolation finals. This heat is raced just before the finals (or championship) heat, and, depending on the number of lanes in the pool, is made up of the swimmers who finished 7th through 12th or 9th through 18th in the preliminary races.

    course - The length of a pool. Long course pools are 50 meters (or occasionally 50 yards), while short course pools are 25 yards or 25 meters. There are two seasons for competitive swimming: long course season and short course season.

    crazy stroke - A fun, creative stroke with absolutely no rules. Often incorporated into practice for young swimmers to let them get out their energy and fulfill their need to just splash around.

    cruise - See cruise interval.

    cruise interval - A practice term used to describe the pace of a lane. An interval which a swimmer can maintain for a long time. Most often heard at Masters workouts.

    cut - See qualifying time.

    cut - See warm-down.

    cycle - See repeat(s).


    deck - The area surrounding a pool. The deck (or a roped off portion of the deck) is reserved for swimmers, officials, and coaches at the vast majority of USA Swimming meets. In order to access the deck at elite-level competitions even swimmers, coaches and officials must show a valid credential issued by meet organizers.

    deck entries - Meet entries submitted on the day of a meet. Not all meets allow deck entries.

    deck seeding - In deck seeded meets, swimmers are assigned to their heat and lane only after they have reported to a staging area (sometimes called the bull pen) prior to their event.

    dehydration - When water leaves the body faster than it can be replenished.

    descend - Term used at practice to indicate that a swimmer's speed and/or the interval will get faster throughout a set. (Their time will descend.) "Four 50s descend" means that a swimmer will swim 50 meters/yards four times, and that the first one should be the slowest and the fourth one should be the fastest.

    developmental meet - A USA Swimming term for an early-season meet in which all swimmers can compete.

    disability swimming - Competitive swimming for athletes with physical disabilities. There are highly-competitive national and international championships, including the Paralympic Games, which are held in conjunction with the Olympics every four years.

    disabled swimming - See disability swimming.

    disqualification - At a meet, when a swimmer breaks a rule of swimming, they are disqualified. (For example, if a swimmer finishes a breaststroke race by touching the wall with only one hand, instead of two.) Their race is "not counted," and the swimmer will not receive a time. Disqualifications are indicated on meet results with "DQ" in place of the swimmer's time. During the race, meet officials will indicate a disqualification by raising one arm with an open hand above their head. Swimmers and coaches will receive a notice that shows the reason for the disqualification.

    distance - How far a swimmer swims.

    distance event - Typically distance events are considered to be any races that are more than 400 meters or 500 yards.

    distance per stroke - How far a swimmer travels with each stroke.

    dive - Hands-first entry into a pool.

    diving well - A separate pool, or a separate section of a pool specifically designed for diving (with deep water and diving boards/platforms). At some meets, where the pool has a diving well, the area may be closed for diving and used by swimmers for warm-up and warm-down.

    Division I, II and III - NCAA divisions. The largest schools are in Division I, and the smallest schools in Division III.

    Dolphin arch - When the head, back and hips are arched to create an arc or part of a circle shape.

    dolphin kick - The kick used in the butterfly stroke, where feet remain together, kicking up and down simultaneously. Dolphin kick is most effective when the kick begins at the hip and the knees do not bend too much.

    double-dual meet - A meet in which three teams compete, and each team is scored against the other two independently.

    double-whistle - The indication from officials that the next heat of swimmers is about to be called to step onto the blocks for their race.

    DPS - Abbreviation for distance per stroke.

    DQ - Abbreviation for disqualification.

    Drafter - A swimmer who pushes off the wall less than five seconds behind the swimmer in front of him. This way, the swimmer can draft off of that person. Also known as "dragger."

    drag suit - A loose suit worn over a practice suit to increase drag or resistance. This helps swimmers build strength and power, and creates the sensation of speed when swimming without a drag suit. Some swimmers buy suits specifically designed as drag suits, while others simply wear an old, loose, worn-out suit over their new one.

    drill - An exercise that allows or requires a swimmer to focus on an aspect of their stroke technique.

    drill progression - A series of drills. The series begins with a drill that focuses the swimmer on a fundamental aspect of stroke technique. Each subsequent drill builds on that fundamental skill, and progresses toward swimming technically proficient whole strokes.

    drill set - A set done in practice in which the focus is on a drill, a drill progression, or other specific aspect of a swimmer's stroke technique.

    dropped elbow - When the elbow drops below the wrist in the catch phase of freestyle. This is the opposite of EVF, or early vertical forearm.

    dropped time - See personal best.

    dry side - USA Swimming term for the part of their rule book that addresses the administrative rules for a meet.

    dryland - Strength and flexibility exercises that swimmers do on land to complement their in-water training. Examples of dryland include: core-exercises, weight lifting, and cross-training activities such as running or cycling.

    dual meet - Meet in which two teams compete against each other.


    early vertical forearm - Having a vertical forearm (by keeping the elbow above the wrist and fingertips) as early as possible in the stroke, ideally in front of the shoulders at the catch. Also called EVF, this is thought by many to be a critical component of fast freestyle technique.

    easy swim - Relaxed, technique-focused swimming where speed is unimportant. Used in practice at the beginning of warm-up, for recovery between sets or repeats, and as cool-down at the end of a workout.

    electronic timing - Timing system for swim meets that is integrates all the components (starters gun, block sensors, touch pads, video cameras, etc.) through a central computer system. When the starter sounds the gun at the start of each race, the computer starts the clock running in all lanes simultaneously. The clock in each lane stops only when the swimmer hits the touch pad with sufficient force (in a fully automatic system), or when the three lane timers each push their button (in a semi-automatic system). Electronic timing systems can track opening splits for swimmers in multi-lap events, finish order and other race data, including photo finishes.

    elementary backstroke - Also sometimes called "upside-down breastroke," this is swimming on the back using a breastroke kick and an arm stroke that begins above the head and sweeps out and down to the hips. Arm recovery is usually just barely underwater along the body.

    eligible to compete - Swimmers who are registered with their governing body (USA Swimming, for example), have paid their meet registration fees, and have met any qualification standards are eligible to compete.

    entry (hand) - How the hand enters the water on each stroke.

    entry chair - See entry chairperson.

    entry chairperson - The person responsible for making sure meet entries are received on time and are accurate. This person is associated with the club or team hosting the meet. Their duties also include notifying teams of errors on the entry forms and returning entries received after the deadline or after the meet is full (if there is an entry limit).

    entry deadline - The date by which meet entries must be postmarked. Online entries must be submitted by the entry deadline as well. Due to entry limits, the deadline is often moot.

    entry fees - The amount charged to a swimmer for entering an event. (This fee is usually charged per event.) Relays are also charged this entry fee (one fee per relay, not per swimmer). Entry fees vary.

    entry form - Form used to enter a meet.

    entry limit - The maximum number of swimmers accepted to swim in a meet, often because of time or space constraints. Most meets have an entry limit.

    equipment - Somewhat jokingly called "toys" by Masters swimmers, basic swimming equipment includes: goggles, caps, kickboards, paddles, pull buoys, fins and zoomers. Equipment, when used properly, can help swimmers isolate and improve various aspects of their stroke technique.

    even split - To swim the first and last halves of a race in the same amount of time. Or, in a longer race, to swim each segment (usually 50s or 100s) of the race in approximately the same amount of time.

    event - A race, identified by the distance and stroke. One event often includes preliminary heats and a finals race. An event can also be a series of heats, which are timed-finals.

    EVF - Abbreviation for early vertical forearm.

    exchange - In a relay, when one swimmer touches the wall and the next leaves the blocks.


    failed swim - When a swimmer does not meet the time standard for an event at a meet where proof of time standard is required.

    false start - In a race, when a swimmer leaves the starting block before the starter sounds the beep or gun. At most meets one false start disqualifies a swimmer (or a relay). The starter will let the swimmers know of the false start with multiple beeps of the electronic timing system, or a second and/or third firing of the starter's gun.

    false start rope - A rope hung across the pool to stop swimmers who did not hear the false start. When a false start is indicated and there are swimmers still racing, officials will drop the rope into the pool. The rope is usually hung halfway across short course pools, and approximately 50 feet from the blocks in long course pools.

    fastest to slowest seeding - A method of assigning swimmers to heats and lanes, in which the fastest swimmers are assigned to the first heat, and the slowest in the last heat. This seeding system is used in distance events, which are usually raced at the end of a session.

    fastskin - A type of competition suit made by Speedo.

    FINA - The international governing body for aquatic sports, including swimming. (FINA also governs diving, synchronized swimming, water polo and open water swimming.) FINA makes the rules for the sport of swimming.

    final results - Official results from a meet, typically printed and posted at the meet venue.

    finals - The last, championship race of an event. The swimmers with the fastest times in the preliminary heats race in finals. See also consolation finals and timed finals.

    finish (of the race) - The last 5-15 meters of a race or swim.

    finish (of the stroke) - One of the most powerful moments in the stroke cycle. In freestyle, backstroke, and butterfly, the finish of the stroke is the last part of each arm movement before the hand comes out of the water. Coaches and swimmers rarely use the term "finish" in reference to the breastroke arm movement.

    fins - Worn on the feet, these flexible, plastic blades help swimmers improve their kick. Sometimes swimmers will wear fins at practice so that they can swim at race speed with less exertion. Swim fins are more flexible and lighter-weight than dive fins.

    five (or ten) seconds back - The interval between swimmers at practice is either five or ten seconds. The second swimmer is said to go "five (or ten) seconds back" from the first.

    flags - Also called backstroke flags, these are the colored, triangular flags that hang across a pool, approximately 15 feet (or 5 meters) from either end. Backstrokers use the flags to anticipate where the wall is.

    flip turn - Used to transition between laps by doing a forward somersault before the wall. Used in freestyle and backstroke events. The freestyle and backstroke flip turns are slightly different. There is also a backstroke-to-breastroke flip turn that is completely different than the freestyle/backstroke flip turn.

    floor marshal - Meet official responsible for making sure the warm-up pool is safe, and that swimmers are abiding the warm-up pool rules.

    flutter kick - The rapid, up-and-down kick used in both freestyle and backstroke. Efficient flutter kicks are small and very rapid leg movements that cause the water to "boil" without splashing too much.

    format - Usually refers to meet format: type of meet and order of events. See timed final and prelim/final.

    forward start - A dive, or other entry in which the swimmer is facing the pool.

    foul - Equipment failure/malfunction, obstruction, collision or interference that does not allow for a race to be successfully completed.

    four-hour rule - USA Swimming rule that keeps timed finals meets for 12-and-unders to 4 hours or less, and prelims/finals meets to less than 8 hours total (for both sessions).

    freestyle - One of the four competitive strokes. Sometimes called "the crawl," freestyle is a long-axis stroke.

    freestyle relay - A freestyle race in which four swimmers each swim one-fourth the total distance of the race. Two relays are contested at the Olympics: 400m (or 4 x 100m) and 800m (or 4 x 200m). Shorter races are sometimes offered at other levels of competition: 4 x 25 yards/meters, and 4 x 50yards/meters.

    frog kick - See breastroke kick.


    gallery - Viewing area for meet spectators.

    goggles - Protective covering worn over the eyes. Goggles come in many styles and sizes, and can be made with corrective lenses.

    gravity wave - A wave created by a swimmer, which moves down and forward before bouncing off the bottom of the pool. Gravity waves cause turbulence at the surface and potentially slow the swimmer.

    green zone - Term used by some coaches to describe sets that are moderately aerobically challenging. See also blue zone and red zone.

    group - Practices for most teams are organized into groups based on age, or skill, or a combination of both.

    gun - See starters gun.

    gun lap - The last two laps of a distance event. When the swimmer in the lead is under the flags just before their turn into the last two laps of the race, the starter will fire the gun once over that swimmer's lane.

    gutter - Trough around the edge of a pool that collects water and directs it out of the pool and through the filter system. Some gutters are designed to keep waves from bouncing off the wall and back into the pool.


    hand velocity - The speed of a swimmer's hand through the water.

    handbook - A book published by a club, team, local swim committee, or other organization that contains rules of competition, contact information, records, qualifying times, and more.

    head timer - The timer in charge of all other timers. The head timer is responsible for organizing timers before the meet, providing instruction prior to the start of competition, and assigning timers to lanes. The head timer also serves as a backup timer in case a watch fails or a timer misses the start of a race.

    heat - The term for one race, when there are too many swimmers entered in an event for them to all race at once. Winners of the event are determined after all heats have raced, and the times of each swimmer have been compared to those of the swimmers in all other heats of the same event.

    heat award - Given to the winner of a heat at age group meets. This award, usually a ribbon, is not always given out.

    heat sheet - The list of events to be contested at a meet, which shows the names of the swimmers who entered the event and their entry times. The heat sheet is often available for purchase.

    high elbow - In freestyle, keeping the elbow above the wrist and fingertips. Maintaining a high elbow on both the recovery and the power phase of the pull is an important aspect of fast freestyle, and a necessary component of "early vertical forearm" freestyle technique.

    high point - A USA Swimming award given to the swimmer who scores the most points in their age group at a given meet. This award is not always given out.

    horn - Sometimes used in place of a starters gun at a meet. Typically the horn is part of an automatic timing system.

    hypoxic training - Sets in which breathing patterns are the main focus of the drill. (For example: 4 x 100 freestyle, breathing every 3 strokes on the first 100; every 5 strokes on the second 100; every 7 strokes on the 3rd 100; and every 9 strokes on the last 100.) Hypoxic training often includes swimming while limiting air intake. This should ALWAYS be done under the direct supervision of a coach, as it is possible to pass out (and drown).

    Hy-Tek - Swimming software that tracks meet entries and results.


    IM - Shorthand for the "Individual Medley," pronounced "eye-em." See individual medley.

    IM rollover - Also called IU-IM (Indiana University IM). A series of medley swims in which the first length rolls through the strokes in IM order. For example, a series of "IM rollover 50s" would look like this: 25 Fly/25 Backstroke; 25 Backstroke/25 Breastroke; 25 Breastroke/Freestyle; 25 Freestyle/25 Butterfly.

    individual medley - One of the events contested in a meet, in which contestants swim lengths of all four strokes in a specific order: butterfly, backstroke, breastroke, freestyle. The number of lengths of each stroke depends on the event's distance. Events offered are usually 100 yards/meters (25 yards/meters each stroke), 200 yards/meters (50 yards/meters each), and 400 yards/meters (100 yards/meters each).

    interval - Time allowed for swimming, rest or both between repeats and/or sets during practice. "Swim interval" usually means the time allowed for swimming and rest. A "rest interval" specifies how long a swimmer should remain on the wall before beginning the next swim.

    interval training - A training method that includes "active" and "recovery" intervals, or bouts of intense exercise followed by less-intense exercise. Interval training switches between anaerobic activity and aerobic activity repeatedly throughout the workout.

    invitational - A meet in which every participating team has been invited by organizers.


    J.O.s - Abbreviation for Junior Olympics. See Junior Olympics.

    JOs - Abbreviation for Junior Olympics. See Junior Olympics.

    jump - See false start.

    Junior Olympics - An age group championship meet offered and run by USA Swimming's local swimming committees (LSCs).

    Juniors - USA Swimming's championship meet for swimmers who are 18 years or younger and meet certain qualifying times.


    kick - The movement of a swimmer's legs and feet.

    kickboard - A lightweight, flat flotation device used to practice kicking. Swimmers typically rest straight arms on the board.


    lactate - Blood lactate is the result of several fast-acting chemical reactions in the blood stream. Those reactions begin when lactic acid releases hydrogen ions. Lactate is what physiologists typically measure in the lab when testing lactate threshold. Lactate is not the same as lactic acid.

    lactate threshold - During a period of intense physical activity, the point at which lactic acid builds up in an athlete's blood faster than their body can process/remove it.

    lactic acid - A by-product of the body's process of using energy (glucose) anaerobically (without oxygen), which it does during high-intensity activity.

    land to water strength ratio - The percentage of a swimmer's strength on land that they are able to use as strength in the water. Also called land/water strength. There are a number of ways to test a swimmer's land/water strength conversion.

    lane - The space between lane lines, or between a lane line and the wall. Lanes are approximately 2.5 meters (8 feet) wide.

    lane line - The cables or "ropes" strung the length of the pool (from the blocks to the opposite wall) that divide the water into lanes. Modern lane line ropes are covered in plastic flotation pieces that absorb or eliminate the wakes created by swimmers (referred to as wave- or wake-eating lane lines).

    lane markings - The black lines at the bottom of the pool marking the middle of each lane. The black lines end in a T at both ends to indicate that the wall is near.

    lane ropes - See lane line.

    lane timer - See timer.

    lap - Typically refers to one length of a pool. Technically, and in years past, a lap used to mean "down and back" or two lengths of a pool, but the term generally does not mean that in modern times!

    lap counter - Large, plastic cards printed with numbers. In distance freestyle events (500 yards or longer) these cards are held underwater at end opposite the starting blocks to help the swimmer keep track of where they are in the race. The counters show odd numbers, with the last panel covered by a bright orange square. When the swimmer is making the final turn into the last lap of the race, the person holding their counter will display the bright orange card, instead of a number.

    lapped - Term for when the first person in a lane catches up to and passes the last person in the lane.

    lapping - See lapped.

    late entries - Meet entries that are received by the meet host after the entry deadline. Late entries are typically returned to the sender.

    LC - Abbreviation for long course.

    LCM - Abbreviation for long course meters.

    lead off - The first swimmer in a relay; the "lead-off" swimmer swims the first leg.

    leg (of a relay) - One swimmer's portion of a relay; there are 4 legs of each relay in a meet.

    length - Once across the pool.

    LMSC - Abbreviation for Local Masters Swimming Committee.

    loaf - To put minimal effort into a set or race.

    loafing - Purposely swimming slower than one is capable of.

    Local Swimming Committee - USA Swimming term for a local or regional governing body. Abbreviated LSC.

    long course - See long course pool.

    long course meters - Refers to a pool that is 50 meters long. Abbreviated LCM.

    long course pool - A pool that is 50 meters (or, in rare cases, yards) long. Summer is long course season in the United States.

    long distance - Any swimming event more than 400 meters or 500 yards.

    long whistle - At a meet the starter will sound one long whistle as a signal to swimmers in the race to step onto the blocks. In a backstroke race, this is the signal that swimmers may jump into the water. For swimmers who are not able to dive from the blocks, the long whistle is their cue to stand next to the block with their toes over the edge of the deck.

    long-axis - An imaginary line running down a swimmer's spine, from head to toe. Rotation around this axis is a fundamental component of freestyle and backstroke technique.

    long-term goals - Goals or achievements that a swimmer hopes to realize over a longer period of time, such as one year, four years, or several seasons. Goal setting is an important part of the mental training an athlete undertakes. Achieving long-term goals requires setting and achieving short-term goals along the way.

    LSC - Abbreviation for Local Swimming Committee.

    lungbuster - A difficult hypoxic set that leaves your lungs aching.

    Lycra - A swimsuit material.


    main set - The set at practice which is the main focus of the day. The tasks of the main set will vary depending on the swimmer's or team's goals and where the swimmer or team is in their training cycle.

    mark - See take your mark.

    medicine ball - A soft, weighted ball about the size of a soccer ball used in dryland workouts. They come in various weights ranging from one to 20 pounds.

    medley relay - A race in which four swimmers each swim one-fourth the total distance. Each swimmer swims a different stroke, and the strokes must swum in this order: backstroke, breastroke, butterfly, freestyle. Two medley relays are contested at the Olympics: 200m (or 4 x 50m) and 400m (or 4 x 100m). A shorter race (4 x 25 yards/meters) is frequently offered at other levels of competition.

    meet - A swimming competition. Meets consist of events, which almost always have numerous heats each. There are many meet formats, but the most common are prelims/finals and timed finals.

    meet director - The official in charge of meet administration.

    meet program - Shows the heat and lane assignments for each swimmer participating in each event. The events are listed in the order in which they will be swum. The program is usually for sale at the meet entrance.

    meet referee - Official in charge of a swimming meet. The meet referee has authority over all other officials.

    mental skills - Skills used by athletes to get into a psychological state in which they can compete successfully. Mental skills include: goal-setting, anxiety control, creating and maintaining a positive attitude, using effective self-talk, and finding motivation.

    middle distance - Events that are between 200 and 400 meters/yards long.

    mile - An event in both long course and short course meets, either 1500 meters or 1650 yards. (Both events are both technically short of a mile.)


    NAGTS - Abbreviation for national age group time standards set by USA Swimming.

    NAIA - Acronym for National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.

    natatorium - An indoor pool.

    National Age Group Recognition Program - Recognizes the top 10 swimmers in each event, by age from 11 through 18. Awards are given for each gender in both long course and short course events. To be eligible, swimmers must be USA Swimming members when they achieve their time and they must do so in a USA Swimming sanctioned meet or an observed swim/meet.

    national age group time standard - USA Swimming standards for age group swimmers. Specific time standards change annually, and vary according to the event or purpose of the standard.

    National Age Group Top 16 - See National Age Group Recognition Program.

    national reportable time - Time standards set by USA Swimming annually that are approximately based on the times of the top 25 swimmers nationwide in the previous year. Swimmers who meet the NRT can be considered for a Top 16 award.

    Nationals - Nickname for a National Championship meet, an annual event at which swimmers from the host country compete to be the National Champion (or, winner) in each event.

    NCAA - Acronym for National Collegiate Athletic Association.

    negative split - Swimming a race so that the second half of the race is faster than the first half.

    neurological system training - Training designed to improve the reaction time of the neurological system; training to improve the reaction time at the site where the motor neuron tells the muscle fiber what to do. This training is characterized by super-short sprints.

    NGB - Acronym for National Governing Body.

    no time - See NT.

    non-conforming time - A time used to enter a meet that was earned in a pool of different course than the one the meet will be held in. For example, a swimmer who converts a long course time to short course and uses that converted time to enter a meet has submitted a "non-conforming time."

    novelty meet - USA Swimming term for a meet that offers shortened sessions or limited events, and does not fit into one of their established meet categories.

    novice - Another word for beginner.

    NRT - Abbreviation for national reportable time.

    NT - USA Swimming abbreviation for "no time." Appears in place of a time on the heat sheet to indicate that a swimmer has not raced the event before.

    NTV - Abbreviation for National Times Verification. A swimmer receives a NTV certificate when they achieve a national time, and that time is approved by the verification official at the meet where the time was recorded.

    nutrition - The process of eating and assimilating food for growth; the study of food and diet.

    nylon - A swimsuit material.


    observed meet - USA Swimming term for when enough USA Swimming officials are present at a meet that is not being run under USA Swimming sanction (rules) to ensure that swimmers' races conform to USA Swimming's technical rules. In order for a meet to be observed, approval of such a request must be obtained in advance.

    observed swim - When a swimmer's race in a non-USA-Swimming sanctioned meet is observed by USA Swimming officials for conformance with USA Swimming's rules. Similar to an observed meet, the swimmer must request that their race be observed, and the request must be approved. Swimmers may do this when they are attempting to meet a USA Swimming qualifying time or set a USA Swimming record in a non-USA-Swimming meet.

    official - Someone on deck at a meet who is in charge of enforcing the rules governing the competition. Officials at USA Swimming meets are: stroke and turn judges, administrative officials, starters, timers, and referees.

    official time - Race result, or swimmer's time from a race, that has been checked and validated by meet officials.

    Olympic trials - Meet at which swimmers race for spots on the Olympic team. This is a long course meet, held in the year of the Olympics Games, typically a number of weeks before the Games.

    Omega - A brand of electronic, automatic timing.

    On deck - Refers to the batter who is next up in the batting order. The on-deck batter stands outside the dugout to prepare for his plate appearance.

    On-deck circle - The designated area – usually next to the dugout in foul territory – where the on-deck hitter stands while the batter in front of him is at bat.

    open competition - A competition that can be entered by any swimmer, club, team, or organization that qualifies.

    open turn - To touch the wall with a hand, bring the feet to the wall, and immediately push off for the next lap. Used by non-competitive swimmers in place of a flip turn. Competitive swimmers use open turns when swimming consecutive laps of breastroke or butterfly, or when there is a transition between strokes (such as in the individual medley events). There is specific technique used in executing fast open turns for races.

    open water - Any non-pool swimming locale, typically oceans, lakes, and rivers.

    OT - USA Swimming abbreviation for official time.

    OTC - Abbreviation for Olympic Training Center; there are several Olympic Training centers in the United States. Swimming camps are held at the OTC in Colorado Springs, CO.

    out-touch - To win a race by a tenth or hundredths of a second; to just barely beat a competitor to the wall.


    pace - Swimming speed. At Masters practices pace refers to the time a swimmer needs to swim 100 meters or yards.

    pace clock - Large clock showing seconds that is located on the pool deck, typically at both ends of the pool. Swimmers use the clock to keep track of their times (and send-offs or intervals) during a workout. Some pace clocks are traditional clock faces with only minute and second hands, and others are digital clocks that cycle from 00:00 through 59:59 every hour.

    pace work - To practice swimming at a particular pace.

    paddle - A flat piece of plastic worn on the hands, and held in place by rubber cords that fit over the middle finger (and sometimes also the wrist). Paddles can be used to build strength and practice correct swimming technique. Too much paddle use, or frequent use of paddles that are too large can cause shoulder injuries.

    parka - Big, fuzzy, warm jacket that extends to shins or ankles. Often swimmers will embroider their names on the front.

    PB - See personal best.

    personal best - Also called "PB" for short, this is the fastest time a swimmer has ever achieved in an event. PBs are often used in goal-setting and to chart improvement over the course of one or more seasons.

    Pilates - A core-strengthening type of land-based exercise.

    positive check-in - USA Swimming term for when a swimmer checks-in at the beginning of a meet. At deck-seeded and pre-seeded meets, this is required or the swimmer may be scratched from the event(s) he/she is entered in.

    Postal Event - USMS term for a national competition where every entrant swims in their home pool and mails their results to the event host. US Masters hosts several Postal Events every year.

    practice - A workout.

    prelim - See preliminary heats.

    prelim/final - A meet format in which there are two sessions: one for preliminary heats and a second (usually held later in the day) for finals races. In finals, the fastest swimmers from the preliminary heats of each event will race for the final medals/places. Most often preliminary heats and finals are on the same day.

    preliminary heats - Heats of an event that are raced to determine who will race for medals/ribbons in the finals of an event. In most meets "prelims," as they are often called, are held in the morning, and finals later the same day.

    prelims - See preliminary heats.

    pre-seeded events - Events in which swimmers know their heat and lane assignments by looking at either a posted heat sheet or the meet's program.

    Pre-seniors - Practice group on USA Swimming teams for swimmers who are preparing to move up to the Senior group.

    progression - See drill progression.

    proof of time - An official record of a swimmer's time in an event. This is often required when swimmers are entering meets with qualifying times.

    psych(e) sheet - A list of all the swimmers entered in a meet. Swimmers are listed first by event, and then within each event from fastest to slowest.

    pull buoy - Equipment used at practice: a piece of foam shaped like a figure-8 that is held between the legs to keep them afloat while swimmer practices arm strokes.

    pull-downs - Special breastroke stroke executed underwater, which swimmers are allowed to do once each lap, immediately after pushing off the wall. Pull-downs consist of one large pull (from above the head all the way down to the thighs) and one large kick to the surface. Modern competition rules also allow one dolphin kick during the "pull" of the pull-down.

    push off - To literally push off the wall.


    QT - See qualifying time.

    Q-time - See qualifying time.

    qualifying time - The time a swimmer must have achieved previously in an event in order to enter a meet. See also time standard.


    race rehearsal - Mental practice of a race, from start to finish, in which the swimmer imagines every detail.

    ready room - A room near competition start area where swimmers in the upcoming heat gather just before they proceed to the starting blocks. Typically used for the finals session of a prelims/finals meet. At national championship events, swimmers usually are required to report to the ready room prior to all heats, including preliminaries.

    recall rope - See false start rope.

    recovery - The part of the training cycle or a workout where intensity is reduced to allow the body to repair itself. This is the critical part of a training plan where the swimmer/athlete actually becomes stronger.

    recovery (stroke) - The part of the arm stroke between the finish of one stroke of the arm and the set-up for the next. In freestyle, backstroke, and butterfly the recovery is the part of the arm stroke that occurs above the water. In breastroke, it is the portion of the stroke when the hands are going forward to begin the next pull.

    recovery phase - See recovery (stroke).

    red zone - Term used by some coaches to describe a set that is aerobically intense. See also green zone and blue zone.

    referee - The official in charge of the meet. The referee is the final authority in all disputes or other matters related to the conduct of the meet.

    region - A grouping of LSCs, similar to sections, organized to reduce the amount of travel to competition.

    relay - A race in which four swimmers compete as a team. All the swimmers must swim an equal distance in the race. At practices, a relay simply means a multi-person race, the rules of which are limited only by the imaginations of the coach. For details on competitive events see freestyle relay and medley relay.

    relay exchange - When one swimmer finishes his/her leg of the relay and the next swimmer starts.

    relay leg - See leg.

    relay start - Dive done by the 2nd, 3rd and 4th swimmers in a relay, in which the swimmer is allowed to "wind up" or carry some momentum into their dive, so long as they do not leave the block before the swimmer in the water touches the wall. Usually this is done by taking one step from the back to the front of the blocks and swinging the arms forward.

    repeat(s) - Swims that are done multiple times in a set. For example: a 5 x 100 freestyle set has "five 100 repeats."

    resistance training - Training that builds strength by adding resistance. There are both land- and water-based exercises and techniques. In the water, swimmers will sometimes tow a basket or a bucket (attached by a harness and a rope) or use stretch cords to connect their harness to the blocks.

    rest interval - The amount of time a swimmer should rest between swims at practice. For example: "2 x 100 with a rest interval of :20" tells a swimmer to swim 100 yards/meters, look at the clock when they finish, wait twenty seconds, and then leave for the second 100 yards/meters.

    rim-flow gutter - One of the design elements of a fast pool, these gutters allow water to flow out of the pool, eliminating wakes and waves that "bounce back."

    rotator cuff - The term for the group of tiny muscles and tendons that stabilize the shoulder. Swimmers frequently experience rotator cuff injuries, predominantly because of overuse.


    sanction - The permit or rules which govern a competition.

    sanction fee - The fee charged to obtain a sanction.

    sanctioned meet - A meet approved and permitted by a governing body. USA Swimming sanctioned meets are conducted under the rules of USA Swimming and every person in attendance (from swimmers to coaches to officials) must be a member of USA Swimming.

    Sandbagger - Someone who enters a time for a race that is considerably slower than his actual time.

    scissor kick - An illegal breastroke kick, common to new and young swimmers, in which one foot goes "out and around" while the other slices straight back.

    SCM - Abbreviation for Short Course Meters.

    scratch - To withdraw from an event in which the swimmer is entered. There is typically a time deadline by which swimmers must scratch, if they do not want to race. If swimmers fail to show up to the blocks for an event in which they are still entered (or have not scratched), they may sometimes be barred from competing in other events in that session or that meet.

    sculling - To propel oneself by gently moving the hands back and forth in the water. Used as a drill, in a variety of positions, to learn to "feel' the water.

    SCY - Abbreviation for Short Course Yards.

    section - A group of LSCs within a USA Swimming Zone.

    sectionals - Nickname for USA Swimming's Speedo Championship Series.

    seed - A swimmer's heat and lane assignment for an event. The swimmer with the fastest entry time is usually assigned to lane 4 in the last (fastest) heat. Example: "Michael is the top seed in the 50 breastroke."

    seed times - The times used to assign swimmers to heats and lanes for an event at a meet. These are usually the entry times.

    seeding - Swimmers heat and lane assignments for each event in a meet. Seeding is done according to swimmers' entry times.

    seeding times - See seed times.

    send-off - See interval.

    Senior swimming - The most advanced level or practice group on a USA Swimming team.

    session - Part of a swimming meet, usually preceded by opening the competition pool to warm-up. Events held in a session vary, depending on the meet format and the meet's sanction.

    set - A portion of practice. There are many types of sets, such as warm-up, kicking, main, and cool-down. The specific details of a set are limited only by the imaginations of the coaches writing the workouts.

    shave down - To shave the entire body (arms, legs, back, and chest) prior to an important meet in order to reduce drag.

    short course - See short course pool.

    short course meters - See short course pool.

    short course pool - A pool that is 25 yards/meters long.

    short course yards - See short course pool.

    short-axis - An imaginary horizontal line drawn across a swimmer's midsection. Butterfly and breastroke are called "short-axis" strokes because propulsion comes from movement around this imaginary line.

    short-term goals - A swimmer's goals for the next day, week or month.

    silly stroke - See crazy stroke.

    skin suit - Slang for technical suit.

    specialty - A swimmer's best stroke.

    speed work - To practice swimming at sprint pace, or to practice swimming fast.

    Speedo Championship Series - Originally called "sectionals," these open, USA Swimming sanctioned, senior-level meets are typically offered in each Zone during the spring or summer.

    split - A swimmer's time for a portion of a race.

    sport psychology - The study of psychological and mental factors that affect an athlete's behavior and performance in sport.

    sport science - The study of science as it relates to sports and athletic performance. Within the field of sport science, areas of study vary wildly and include physiology, nutrition, biomechanics, and physics.

    sports medicine - A division of medicine focused on preventing, diagnosing, and treating sports/exercise-related injuries.

    sprint - A short, "all-out" race. Anything 100 yards/meters or less is considered a sprint.

    S-pull pattern - A term for the shape of the hand's movement during the freestyle pull.

    stand up - The command swimmers may hear from the starter, asking them to stand up out of their start position.

    STARS - Acronym for USA Swimming's Swimming Tracking and Recognition System.

    start - The beginning of a race.

    start position - The position a swimmer takes when the starter says, "Take your mark."

    starter - The official in charge of beginning races and ensuring that the start of each race is fair, or without false starts. The starter asks swimmers to step onto the blocks, gives the command for them to take their marks, and signals the start of the race. If there is a false start, the starter will call the swimmers back to the blocks for a fair re-start.

    starters gun - Used by starter to begin races at a meet. Starters used to fire a gun loaded with blanks to signal the start of a race. Now, the "gun" is usually connected to an automatic timing system, and sounds a "beep" rather than a "bang!"

    starting blocks - Platforms at the end of the pool from which swimmers dive at the start of a race. Each lane will have a starting block.

    starts - The beginning of a race. Sometimes refers to the first few meters of a race including: dives or backstroke starts, "underwater work," and the breakout.

    stations - Term used in dryland training to indicate an area where swimmers will do one exercise or a short series of exercises with one piece of equipment. Swimmers take turns rotating through all the stations.

    step down - The command swimmers may hear from the starter, asking them to step off the blocks.

    still water - Water that has no turbulence or current.

    stopwatch - Handheld watch used by timers and coaches to record a swimmer's time in an event. In meets with electronic timing, timers will still use stopwatches to record back-up times, in case the electronic timing system fails.

    streamline - The most hydro-dynamic position a swimmer can have in the water. Arms are straight above the head, squeezing the ears; hands are sandwiched one on top of the other; legs and feet are pressed together, with toes pointed.

    stretch cords - Think, stretchy, rubber tube with a handle at each end. Used in dryland training to build strength.

    stroke - The style of swimming. There are four competitive swimming strokes: freestyle, backstroke, breastroke and butterfly. The term "stroke" can also refer to a stroke cycle, as in: "On that last stroke, your elbow dropped below your wrist again."

    stroke and turn judge - Officials who walk along the side of the pool during a race to ensure all swimmers are swimming with legal strokes. If a stroke and turn judge sees a swimmer doing something illegal, they inform the meet referee, who can decide to disqualify the swimmer.

    stroke cycle - One complete cycle of the stroke. In freestyle and backstroke, one stroke cycle is two pulls: one with the left arm and one with the right arm. In butterfly, the stroke cycle begins and ends when the hands enter the water. In breastroke, the stroke cycle begins and ends with the glide.

    stroke judge - See stroke and turn judge.

    stroke rate - The amount of time it takes for a swimmer to complete one stroke cycle.

    stroke shortening - Making the power phase of the stroke shorter than it can/should be by pulling the hand out of the water early or by not reaching far enough on the entry.

    submitted time - The time a swimmer gives when they enter a meet. With few exceptions, submitted times must have been recorded in a prior meet.

    suit - What a swimmer wears in the pool. Styles and materials vary widely, and are, to an extent, dependent on the level of competition the swimmer is engaged in.

    Surface arch - The body arches underwater and bends at the lower back with the legs together and extended at the surface. Hips, shoulders and head are in line.

    Swim America - Professional swimming lesson program, which is licensed to coaches and instructors by the American Swim Coaches Association (ASCA).

    swim interval - See interval.

    swim to the interval - Phrase used at practice to tell swimmers that they should swim at a pace appropriate to the interval given for a set. In other words, swim easy on easy intervals and swim fast on fast intervals.

    swim-off - A tie-breaker race. Used at prelims/finals-formatted meets to determine which swimmer gets to race in finals, or if there is a tie for the alternate spots.

    SWIMS - USA Swimming database that tracks every time swum by every swimmer.


    T-30 - A test set used to determine a swimmer's threshold pace. After a complete warm-up, the swimmer swims their fastest sustainable pace for thirty minutes.

    Tailgater - A person who swims very close to the swimmer in front of him. A tailgater tends to swim right on the feet of that swimmer.

    take your mark - The command from the starter for swimmers in a race to take their start position and remain still until the gun or beep.

    taper - The final recovery phase of a training plan before an end-of-season championship meet. During taper, the swimmer reduces the intensity and length of workouts in the weeks or days leading into an important race. This allows the body to fully recover, or repair itself, from the training of the previous weeks and months. Some athletes will taper only once a year. Others will taper two or three times a year.

    team records - Team statistics, which show the fastest times ever swum by team members. Records usually show the swimmer's name, their time in each event, and the year the record was set. Records are usually kept for every age group.

    technical suit - Expensive racing suits made of highly-technical materials and fabrics that compress muscles for more efficient movement, "shed" water to create less drag, and otherwise help a swimmer to swim faster. Certain styles of technical suits are prohibited in competition for age group swimmers.

    tempo - See turnover.

    test set - A practice set designed to test a swimmer's fitness.

    The zone - Ideal mental state for athletes in competition. Athletes who have experienced being in "the zone" describe it as being so concentrated and engrossed in what they are doing that time seems to stand still and distractions outside their focus essentially disappear.

    threshold - See lactate threshold.

    Throw lift - A type of lift where swimmers launch one or more teammates into the air.

    time card - The card used to record a swimmer's splits and final time for a race. If time cards are used at a meet, they are given to swimmers prior to their races. This is not common at USA Swimming meets.

    time standard - A time set by teams or local organizations or national governing bodies that a swimmer must achieve in order to enter a meet or achieve some level of recognition.

    time trial - A practice race, often used to evaluate improvement or establish a time to use for meet entry.

    timed final - Meet format in which swimmers' times from the heats are their final time in the event. The swimmers with the fastest times are the event winners.

    timer - Volunteer at a swim meet who stands at the finish end of the pool and is responsible for timing the swimmer in their lane. Each lane must have at least two, but preferably three, timers. Some electronic systems will have buttons for each timer to push, which stops the clock for that lane. Timers also will have stopwatches, which are used to record backup times, in case the electronic timing system fails.

    Top - Slang for the "60" or "00" on a pace clock at practice. Usage: "Let's start this set on the top."

    Top 16 Award - USA Swimming's award to the fastest 16 swimmers in the country, given to each gender in every age group for each event. In order to be considered for the award, swimmers must have met the NRT standard.

    top-end speed - Sprint speed. The fastest a swimmer can go.

    Torpedo scull - A type of over-head sculling used to travel feet-first most often when in a back layout or variation of one.

    touch - The finish of a race; to touch the wall.

    touch pad - A soft, black pad placed in the water across each lane at both the start and turn ends of the pool, the touch pad is part of an electronic timing system. Swimmers stop the clock for their lane when they hit the pad. Swimmers must hit the touch pad with enough force to stop the clock.

    trainer - In the United States: an athletic trainer who is usually in charge of dryland and physical therapy activities; in Europe, trainer refers to the coach.

    transfer - To leave one club or team and join another. Most of the time there is a period of time the swimmer must be unattached before he/she can represent the new club at a meet or competition.

    transition - Changing strokes between laps of a swim, such as in the Individual Medley. Example, "You need to work on your backstroke-to-breastroke transition."

    travel fund - Account used to reimburse certain athletes for their travel expenses to national-level competitions. Most national governing bodies have a travel fund to support and encourage qualified and promising athletes. Qualifications vary.

    tri-meet - A meet with three teams competing against one another.

    Tub position - With the face at the surface, the knees are bent in towards the chest, keeping the shins on the surface and the thighs perpendicular.

    tube - Equipment sometimes used with a pull buoy. The tube is wrapped in a figure 8 around a swimmer's ankles to keep the feet from kicking.

    turnover - The speed of a swimmer's arm stokes. Turnover can be measured by stroke rate.

    turns - See open turn and flip turn.


    unattached - To race without representing a team. Represented by "UN" or "UNAT" in the meet program.

    unofficial time - The times that appear on the scoreboard immediately after a race. Race results must be checked by meet officials before they are deemed "official."

    upside-down breastroke - See elementary backstroke.

    USA Card number - See USA-S ID Number.

    USA Swimming - The national governing body of youth swimming in the United States.

    USA-S - Abbreviation for USA Swimming.

    USA-S ID Number - Identification number for USA Swimming members, which is based on a swimmers' name and birthday.

    USMS - Abbreviation for United States Masters Swimming. USMS is the national governing body for competitive swimmers 25 years of age or older, with age groups spanning five year increments up to 100-104.

    USOTC - See OTC.


    vasa trainer - A piece of dryland equipment that allows swimmers to build upper body strength and mimic their strokes on land.

    vertical kicking - Kicking done in a vertical position in deep water.

    visualization - Mental skill used to imagine or mentally rehearse a race.

    VO2 Max - The maximum volume of oxygen a person's body can transport and utilize. VO2 Max is thought of as an athlete's aerobic capacity. Training can improve an athlete's VO2 Max, which is an athletic performance limiter.


    wake-eating lane line - Lane line designed to absorb, or eliminate, the wake created by swimmers. This is one of the design features of a "fast pool."

    Wall Hugger - A swimmer who stops on the wall for a long period of time during a set. Wall huggers tend to get in the way of other lane-mates as they try to turn at the wall. Also known as "barnacle."

    wall tag - Used to refer to a swimmer at practice who is swimming without focus or effort. Usage: "She's not really working out, just playing wall-tag."

    warm-down - Easy, recovery swimming done after a workout or after a race.

    warm-up - The process of getting ready to race or preparing for a main set at practice. Warm-up is both a physical (or physiological) and mental process.

    watches - See stopwatch.

    wave-eating lane line - See wake-eating lane line.

    whip kick - Old term for breastroke kick.


    yardage - Slang for distance, either yards or meters. Example: "How much yardage did you do today?"


    Zone(s) - USA Swimming term used to divide the United States into 4 pieces: Western, Eastern, Southern and Central Zones. Each Zone holds its own championship meet for age group swimmers every August.

    Zoomers - A brand of short fins. Used in practice to improve butterfly, backstroke or freestyle kick technique.

Check out this Swimming glossary to find the sport-specific definitions for which you have been looking. From A to Z, we've got all the words covered.
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