Swimming Lexicon

You’re in the pool, your workout is printed, but you have no idea what all of the abbreviations are that your coach wrote to actually complete the workout. What should you do? You need a swim dictionary of sorts, and below, you’ll find some common abbreviations, words, and everything else you need to know to read a swim workout. Dive in!

If you are new to swimming, workouts are written in yards or meters. Most pools in the United States are 25 yards in length, so a 100 is four lengths of the pool. If you are lucky enough to swim in an Olympic size pool, that would be 50 meters one way, so a 100 would be two lengths of the pool.

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Common Swimming Terms and Abbreviations

B 3/4/5– this refers to breathing. So, you would breath every 3 strokes for one length, every 4 strokes for the second length, and every 5 strokes for the 3rd length, and then repeat.

Build– means that you will get faster within a swim distance that is within a set. For example: 4x100s BUILD means you get faster with each 25 yards of each 100, and then you repeat that BUILD for your next 100.

Catch up– hands are out in front of you for freestyle and you swim with one arm at a time while kicking. When one hand catches up to the other out in front, take a stroke with your other arm.

Claw–short-arm freestyle drill

DESC–means “descending”. This is when you get faster in a swim set. For example 4x100s DESC means that each 100 is FASTER than the one before.

DPS- distance per stroke. Focus on decreasing the number of strokes it takes you to swim one length of the pool.

DR- drill. You will be asked to do a drill for your stroke, like the fingertip drag, catch-up free, etc.

E -even. For example for a set written as 8x75s O=stroke, E=Free, you would swim the odd numbers a stroke of your choice and the even numbers freestyle.

FAP- fast as possible. You better sprint your butt off!

Flip Turn–one way to turn off the wall. Count your strokes from the top of the “T”, tuck, dolphin kick your legs over in a half somersault, push off, turn over on your stomach, streamline, kick, break the surface, and swim.

Free–swim freestyle or front crawl

IM– Individual Medley. The order for the IM is butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle.

KOB or KOS–kick on back or kick on side, without the kick board

Lap– two lengths of the pool.

Length– one length of the pool

Long Course Pool– 50 meters in length

N/S– negative split. This is when the second half of a swim is faster than the first half. For example, in a 200 N/S the first 100 is slower than the second 100.

O — odd. For example for a set written as 8x75s O=stroke, E=Free, you would swim the odd numbers a stroke of your choice and the even numbers freestyle.

Open Turn–one way to turn on the wall, grab the wall, tuck yourself into a ball, throw one arm over your head, and push off.

OWS– open water swim. Swimming that’s done in a natural body of water and not a pool.

Perfect– concentrate on good form and not speed

Pull– use a pull buoy, paddles are optional, but not necessary

Repeat– repeat the preceding set as specified. No extra rest unless noted.

RI– rest interval or the amount of time to rest. Sometimes this is written as :30 RI or 30s rest.

RLR- red line run. Swimming drill where your run from the wall in the shallow end to the line that divides the shallow end from the deep end.

Short Course Meters Pool (SCM)– 25 meters in length (slightly longer than a 25 yard pool)

Short Course Yards Pool (SCY)– 25 yards in length

SI– swim interval, usually a slow, recovery swim in between sets.

SKIDS– stands for swim, kick, individual medley, drills, stroke. An example would be 300 SKIDS, so you would do a 300 of each: swim, kick, IM, drill, swim for a total of 1500 yards.

SKIPS- stands for swim, kick, individual medley, pull, stroke

Streamline– arms over your head, and you are as straight as an arrow leaving the wall.

Stroke–any stroke such as butterfly, backstroke, or breaststroke, but NO Freestyle

Times– written as :30 (30 seconds) or 1:30 (for 1 minute, 30 seconds). Some sets are written as 4x100s on 1:30. That means that you need to swim each 100 of the set FASTER than one minute thirty seconds if you want to get any rest.

T-pace– this is the pace per 100 that you swam in your time trial.

TT- time trial. This is when you swim for time. It’s like a test.

W/D or sometimes C/D– warm down or sometimes cool down, depends on where you live. This is at the end of the workout to slow your heart rate down.

W/U — warm up. Gets your heart rate up before the main set.

U/W– underwater recovery. The recovery phase of your stroke is done underwater instead of bringing your arm out of the water. This helps with your arm turnover and speed.

Pool Toys 

Fins–help develop your kick. I recommend short fins that will help you flex your ankles for more effective kicking.

Kick board–use this floating board for kicking and other drills

Paddles–help you catch the water, but are not necessary

Pull Buoy– goes in between your legs so you can focus on your pull. They also make pull buoys that will lock your ankles in place so you don’t have to focus on squeezing your legs to hold the buoy.

Snorkel–when you are concentrating on your stroke and head position while swimming. This way, you don’t have to turn your head to the side to breath

If you know of any other swimming terms or abbreviations, please add them in the comments below. Thank you! 

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