Swimming Lingo


Aerobic Technically this means you are training at a pace or an effort that allows you to use carbohydrates, fat, and protein as a source of energy. Oxygen is required. This is usually 60-80% of maximum capacity and is perceived as moderate to moderately hard effort.


A long, hard aerobic swim or set that pushes your aerobic capacity to the limit. An endurance test.
Anaerobic Without oxygen. This type of training is done at an intensity that requires chemical changes to occur in the absence of oxygen. Energy is created in the form of ATP. This is usually above 90% of maximum capacity and is perceived as hard or “all-out” effort.  Sprints are purely anaerobic.
A.T. Anaerobic Threshold. The level of output above which the body cannot operate for an extended period of time.  The point where aerobic meets anaerobic. A.T. is determined thru a timed 1500.
Band A rubber device used to strap the legs together at the ankles to keep the swimmer from kicking.
Build Starting out slow and ending fast 5 x 100 build means each 100 starts slow and finishes fast.
Carbo-loading A feeding frenzy that takes place over the period of days leading up to a major competition. Rice, pasta, potatoes, beans and other foods high in complex carbohydrates are known to help sustain energy levels for extended periods of time.
Choice Your choice of stroke (fly, back, breast, or free).
Circle Swim Swimming down the pool on the right side of the lane and returning on the opposite side. This is only necessary when a lane has 3 or more swimmers.
Combo Set A set that includes both aerobic and anaerobic challenges within the same set and often permits the use of strokes other than freestyle.
Descend To move from higher to lower. In the case of a swimming set this would mean your times would progressively get lower (ie. faster).
Drill A generic term used to refer to the many possible ways a stroke can be broken down or modified to teach a certain aspect of a stroke. More information about specific drills can be found at the drill link elsewhere at this site.
Dryland Any number of exercises performed on land with the purpose of strengthening the muscle group’s specific to swimming.
Easy (EZ) Swimming at a perceived effort below 60% of maximum.
Feel The primary surface that helps establish an efficient stroke by feeling the water.
Hard Swimming at a perceived effort above 90% of maximum.
Hypoxic Restricted breathing pattern. Usually refers to the number of strokes taken without a breath. Helps to simulate the oxygen deprived state that commonly occurs at the end of a hard race.
I.M. Individual Medley:  fly – back – breast – free
Interval  The amount of time allotted for a particular distance in a workout. If you can complete the distance in a time faster than the interval then you will “earn” yourself some rest time.
Lactic Acid A waste product found in a muscle when continued production of energy cannot be maintained.
Loafing Not giving an honest effort. Swimming slow and easy without the coach’s approval.
Lungbuster A general term that refers to swimming under a restricted breathing pattern. Lungbusters are usually done with pulling gear and are often divided into quarters. A form of hypoxic training.

Example:  1 x 400 Lungbusters (3, 4, 5, 6 by 100s)

This is a continuous 400 where the first 100 is done breathing every 3rd stroke, the 2nd 100 every 4th stroke, the 3rd 100 every 5th stroke, and the 4th 100 every 6th stroke.

Moderate Swimming at a perceived effort between 60-75% of maximum.
Moderate Hard Swimming at a perceived effort between 75-90% of maximum.
Negative Split To swim the 2nd half of a given distance faster than the first half. A negative split is by time, not perceived effort (see pace clock).
Pace Clock


Large timing device that helps swimmers keep track of their times and intervals.
Progressive See descend.
Pull Set A workout set that requires the use of pulling equipment (buoy, paddles, tube, and band) to provide an extra load for the upper body. The added resistance helps to build sport specific strength. Pull sets also add variety to a workout.
Repeats Holding a series of repeat swims constant at the fastest time possible.
Send-off See interval.
Shave Down Shaving the entire body for the “BIG” meet for the physical benefit of lowering the drag and the psychological benefit of feeling fast in the water.
Specialty A swimmer’s best stroke.
Speed Set A set designed to promote speed development. Usually short distances with enough rest to allow breathing and heart rates to return to normal.
Streamline Form is a swimming technique that is used underwater in every stroke. At the start of a race or on a turn, streamline form is used, usually along with a dolphin kick or flutter kick, to create the least amount of resistance to help the swimmer propel as far as they can.
Stretch Cords A surgical or rubber tubing apparatus. On land it can be combined with paddles to provide a sport specific strength building workout. In the water it can be used in conjunction with a waist harness and anchored to the wall. In this configuration strength or endurance can be trained by swimming against the pull of the cord while speed and race tempo can be developed by swimming with the pull of the cord.
Taper  The part of the competitive season when the total workload is tapered off in preparation for the championship meet. Race pace, visualization and lots of extra rest become the primary focus during this 2-4 wk. period.
Tempo Stroke rate versus time. Tempo is usually measured as the amount of time it takes to complete a stroke cycle. This measurement can help develop and maintain stroke efficiency. Closely associated with DPS (Distance Per Stroke).
U.S.M.S. United States Masters Swimming. The national governing body for masters swimming in the United States.
Variable Sprints This is a pattern of effort most commonly used during a 4 repetition speed set.

Example:  4 x 50 on 1:00 interval

(0:00)     1 = 25 hard – 25 easy          hard is defined as an all-out

(1:00)      2 = 25 easy – 25 hard         effort (above 90% of max.)

(2:00)     3 = 50 easy                         easy is recovery (below 60%)

(3:00)     4 = 50 hard

Visualization Mental rehearsal. Using your imagination to practice an upcoming race.
Vo2 Max. Maximum Oxygen Uptake. An individual’s ability to consume and process oxygen. It is measured in the laboratory by calculating the amount of oxygen exhaled in one minute and subtracting that amount from the amount inhaled during the same period. Research has shown that people with large oxygen consumption capacities perform better in endurance events. Training increases Vo2 max.
Wall Tag Lap swimming without a purpose. This is a term used by coaches to describe the workouts of unmotivated swimmers. “He’s not training hard, he’s just playing wall tag.”  (see loafing).
Zoomers A short swim fin used for serious speed training as well as aerobic overload. The shortness of the fin permits kicking at a tempo similar to actual swimming.


(Thank you FORD Aquatics)