Glossary of Terms

Swimming Terminology


  • Backstroke

    The backstroke, also sometimes called the back crawl or the upside-down freestyle is one of the four swimming styles regulated by FINA, and the only regulated style swum on the back.

    This has the advantage of easy breathing, but the disadvantage of swimmers not being able to see where they are going. It is also the only competition swimming style that has a different start.

    The swimming style is similar to an upside down front crawl. Both backstroke and front crawl are long-axis strokes.

  • Body Line

    Each stroke requires a good body line to minimize resistance in swimming.

    Your body line refers to how your body lies (floats) in the water. A flat ridged body line is important to control your motion in the water.

  • Body Suits

    Body suits or full wet suits are used for open water swimming only and are against the rules in pool races.

    Some Open water events allow Full body suits but it depends on the event. These suits can be worn by Male or female athletes.

  • Breaststroke

    A swimming style in which the swimmer is on his or her chest and the torso does not rotate.

    Some people refer to breaststroke as the "frog" stroke, for your body moves like a frog swimming in the water.

    The stroke itself is the slowest of any competitive strokes and thought to be the oldest of all swimming strokes. This stroke is a short-axis stroke.

  • Butterfly

    The butterfly (colloquially among swimmers known as fly) is a swimming stroke swum on the breast, with both arms moving simultaneously, accompanied by the butterfly kick (also known as the "dolphin kick.

    The butterfly is a more difficult stroke that requires good technique as well as strong muscles. It is the newest swimming style swum in competition, first swum in 1933 and originating out of breaststroke. This stroke is a short-axis stroke.

  • C

  • Catch

    Your catch is the beginning of your arm pull in all strokes.

    This position is in front of you and sets up your arm pull. It is talked about as being one of the more important components in swimming.

  • Circle Swimming

    Circle Swimming is an important way of swimming when a pool is crowded.

    This type of swimming is done in one lane with 3+ swimmers. You swim counter-clock-wise following the person in front of you.

    When you get to a wall you move to the other side of the lane and swim back always keeping the lane line closest to your right.

  • D

  • D.P.S

    Distance per Stroke or DPS is the distance you move through the water per one stroke cycle.

    Improving DPS is one way to improve your technique and allowing for more efficient swimming thus faster swimming.

  • Distance Swimming

    Distance events are events that are 400 meters or longer.

    These events require a lot more endurance training than sprint events. All open water swimming is considered Distance swimming.

  • Dolphin Kicks

    Kicks done with both feet staying together.

    This kick is achieved within the butterfly stroke but also done off the walls in backstroke, freestyle and butterfly.

  • Drill

    Drills are done in swimming to improve technique.

    Drills are normally parts of a stroke don’t continually across the pool to improve that portion of your stroke. An example of this would be one arm freestyle swimming.

  • F

  • Flip-Turns

    Turns used on freestyle where you do a front summersault to turn and go in the other direction.

  • Flutter Kicks

    Also known as freestyle kick is done by moving your legs and feet like a scissor small and fast.

    These kicks are done in freestyle and backstroke and also off the wall.

  • Freestyle

    The freestyle, or the front crawl or forward crawl is a swimming stroke usually regarded as the fastest of the four front primary strokes.

    As such, the front crawl stroke is nearly universally used during a freestyle swimming competition, hence freestyle is used metonymically for the front crawl. It is one of two long axis strokes.

  • Front Crawl

    The Front crawl, or freestyle stroke is usually regarded as the fastest of the four front primary strokes.

    As such, the front crawl stroke is nearly universally used during a freestyle swimming competition, hence freestyle is used metonymically for the front crawl. It is one of two long axis strokes

  • I

  • Individual Medley

    Individual medley or IM is an event swum in the specific order of butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle.

  • J

  • Jammer

    A Jammer is suit for a male that goes from the hip to just above the knee.

    There are racing jammers that are extremely tight which minimize resistance.

    There are also jammer training suits that are more loose fit but are still skin tight.

  • O

  • Open Turns

    Open turns- Turns done for breaststroke and Butterfly at every wall to turn and go in the other direction.

  • Open Water

    Open water swimming is a swimming sport that is done in an open body of water like a lake, river or ocean.

    These events are considered distance events and are normally for advanced swimmer.

  • S

  • Sprint Events

    Sprint events are events that are 100 meters and shorter. These events require different training than distance events.

  • Starts

    The beginning of a race in swimming starts on the starting blocks and is used to jump. There are many different forms of a starting block.

  • Streamline

    A form of swimming technique that is used off every wall and start in every stroke.

    A streamline is normally done while doing dolphin kicks or flutter kicks to minimize the resistance while moving through the water.

    Mastering a streamline is the easiest way to improve your swimming speed.