Swimming Jargon

Glossary and Acronyms

There is plenty of swimming terminology and jargon and we hope the following will help you to learn and understand this new “language”.

Swimming Strokes– BK = Backstroke; BR = Breaststroke; BF = Butterfly; FC = Front Crawl; FS = Freestyle (usually Front Crawl)

Individual Medley (IM)– The competitor swims all four strokes in the following order:  butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle.

Medley Relay– Four swimmers each swim a different stroke. The order is always backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and freestyle.

Squadron Relay– Usually the last race of a gala. A freestyle relay consisting of one swimmer from each age group or one swimmer of each sex from each age group.

EML– Essex Mini League

ESL– Essex Swimming League

DQ– disqualified

Cut-off time – Qualifying time set for an event.   This is designed to ensure even competition.   Is used for open meets and also for Essex Mini League fixtures.

TF– Time Fault – when the cut-off time is exceeded. Time stands, and can be used as a PB if appropriate, but no points are scored.   This is only found in EML fixtures.

Personal Best (PB) – no matter their ability, each swimmer soon becomes passionate about beating their previous time for each event and stroke. The times are recorded at all fixtures and the Club keeps records of all the swimmers’ best times, see time records on the members login page. Swim England holds a database of all official times recorded at licensed Open Meets.

Long Course (LC)– Events held in a 50m pool.

Short Course (SC)– Events held in a 25m pool.

Open Meet– Event for unlimited number of clubs/individuals for improvement of PB times.   Open to swimmers aged 9 years and above.   Qualifying times are usually imposed.

Licensed Meets– These are the only meets at which you can qualify for County, Regional and National competitions (see section on Open Meets)

Entry time – The time submitted by the Club for a swimmer being entered in a gala. If entries are made well in advance, the entry time may not be the swimmers current PB

Lower Qualification Time (LQT)– The slowest entry time for a particular event that the organisers of a gala will consider.

Upper Qualification Time (UQT) –The fastest entry time for a particular event that the organisers of a gala will consider.

Withdrawal– Swimmers must inform the organisers (through the coaching team) before the start of competition if they are not taking part.   A fine is imposed for those swimmers who do not comply.

Heat Declared Winner (HDW)– When no final is swum and the winner is declared on the times swum in the heats

Over the Top Starts– This is when the swimmer from one heat remains in the water whilst the swimmer for the next heat is called to the blocks. In this instance swimmers should move to the side of the lane, hold on to the lane line (not the end of the pool) and remain in place until the next heat has started.   They should then exit the pool from the side – by ducking under each lane line.

Whipping Area– Swimmers for each event are called to a specified area so that marshals can allocate heat positions.   Swimmers are then directed to the poolside to await their heat.

Whistles– At the beginning of each race swimmers will be instructed as follows …

  • Four long blasts of a whistle indicate the Referee and Judges are ready to start the race.
  • On the next long whistle swimmers should take up their starting position either on the starting block, on the poolside or in the water. Backstroke swimmers should enter the water.
  • When told to “Take your marks” swimmers immediately take up their starting position.When all swimmers are stationary the Starter sounds the starting signal.

Training Terminology

USRPT– USRPT stands for “Ultra Short Race Pace Training” and includes high intensity swimming in sets that match the best achieved velocities of individuals’ races. The overall goal is to simulate racing situations in training to better prepare an athlete’s body for race day

Warm-up – This involves swimming for 5 –15 minutes to warm muscles and prepare heart and lungs for more intense activity.

Drills – Drills involve swimming in a way that encourages the development of good stroke technique. Drills often focus on arm strokes or leg movements, but also involve both.

There are many different drills for each of the strokes.

Sprints –  Sprints enable swimmers to get used to swimming fast for short distances (<100m) whilst maintaining good stroke technique. Sprints use energy stored in muscles.

Starts and Turns (Transitions) –  This is largely a matter of practice. Swimmers can find out whether conventional or track style starts suit them best. Perfecting starts and turns can improve performance by several seconds.

Stroke Analysis –  Bad habits and fine tuning of stroke technique can be sorted out by direct intervention of an experienced coach. Videoing can be used to aid this. All videoing is supervised and undertaken in accordance with the Swim England child protection guidelines.

Aerobic – The primary goal of aerobic swim sets is to improve your cardiovascular fitness and muscle oxidative capacity by sustaining a moderately high intensity — 65 to 75 percent of maximum heart rate — for 15 to 30 minutes at a time, with minimal recovery between intervals.

Anaerobic – During anaerobic swimming, your body is not able to keep up with your muscles’ demands for oxygen. This type of swimming occurs when you swim at an intense rate. … This type of swimming will mimic a race-pace effort and lead to lactic acid build-up in the muscles

Training Cycles – Anyone who has followed athletics will tell you that it is not possible to be in top form all year round. Sports science tells us that swimmers’ performance can be made to peak around 3 times a year. The training programs at our club have been scheduled into cycles to ensure that peak fitness is reached at times of major competitions.

A mesocyclelasts several weeks depending on the goals of the training in that period.

A microcycleis typically 1-4 weeks in length and focuses on the daily and weekly training needs to achieve the mescocycle goal.

Each of the training cycles involves a preparation phase, pre-competition phase, a competition phase and a recovery phase. As the training cycle moves from one phase to another, swimmers will notice changes in the content of their training programme.

  • Preparatory Phase: The Preparatory phase focuses on endurance work and stroke technique. A minimal level of sprint training, starts and turns, and medley is undertaken.
  • Pre-Competition Phases: This phase reduces the amount of endurance work but maintains a focus on technique. The amount of sprint and speed work doubles.
  • Competition Phase: Endurance work is reduced further as is stroke technique. The level of speed and sprint work is increased to three times that of the preparatory phase. The amount of time devoted to starts and turns is doubled. One week prior to competition the distance and intensity is tapered down.
  • Recovery Phase: The amount of sprint and speed work is reduced significantly. The main focus returns to aerobic and technique work.




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