Swimming terminology, specifically the swim lingo you will see or hear during a workout, can often be confusing. We created these definitions of typical swim practice terms to help you navigate the workout so you can focus on your swimming. If you haven't yet, check out our searchable, customize-able, and subscribe-able Workout Library


@1:30 (Send Off Time)

Swimmers use a pace clock to time their sets. They always speak in minutes and seconds. When a coach tells you to swim a set on “the 1:30,” the coach is saying that you have 1 minute, 30 seconds to complete each swim and rest and then begin the next swim. 

@ :30 Rest

The prescribed time in-between intervals or sets. When a coach tells you "30 seconds rest” the coach is saying that you have 30 seconds to rest that starts as soon as your hand touches the wall and ends with you pushing off the wall. 

1 x 100

If a pool is 25 yards long and you swam across it. You have completed 1 x 25. If you were to make it a roundtrip and swim from one side of the pool and back, you have swum 50 yards, or 1 x 50. If you were to swim two roundtrips, then you have swum 100 yards, or 1 x 100.

10 x 100

This describes the number of repeats of the distance for each set. If you were to swim 100 yards 10 times, then you have done 10 x 100s. 

Bilateral Breathing

The process of breathing on alternate sides during freestyle, such as breathing every third or fifth stroke. 

Build-Up Swim

Specific distances over which you gradually increase your speed. For a build-up 100-yard swim, you start at a certain speed, gradually building to maximum or near maximum speed at the end of the 100.


Easy to moderate swimming following an intensive effort or race. The purpose is to rid the body of excess lactic acid and to reduce heart rate and respiration. May also be referred to as “recovery swimming.” “active rest/recovery.” or “warm-down”.

Descending Interval

A set in which the interval (swim time plus rest) decreases with each repeat. A descending interval set of 5 x 100s may have send-offs of 2:00, 1:55, 1:50, 1:45, and 1:40. 

Descending Set

A series of the same distance in which your swimming times decrease with each repeat. Your time on a descending set of 4 x 50s on 1:00 may be :46, :44, :42, and :40.  

DPS (Distance per Stroke)

The distance you cover with each stroke. The longer your distance per stroke, the more efficient your stroke is. You can calculate this by dividing your distance swum by your stroke count over that distance. 


An exercise designed to improve the technique of a swimmer. Many drills focus on a specific part of the stroke. Often a coach may say, “Drill 25, then swim 25,” which means do a drill for 25 yards, then do the full stroke for the next 25 yards. 

IM (Individual Medley)

A swim in which you swim each stroke in the following order: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle. Each stroke must be swum for one-quarter of the race distance. 

Long Course Meters

A pool that is 50 meters long.

Negative Split

A swim during which the second half is completed faster than the first half.

OW (Open Water)

Swimming that occurs outside of a pool, such as in a river, lake, or ocean.


Average time for a specific distance within a specific event (a 200 on 3:00 would be a :45 per 50 pace). Usually, you should swim at a pace that you can hold for a long time, rather than changing your pace drastically within a set (unless the set calls for it).


A swim during which only your upper body is used. Pulling generally implies the use of a pull buoy, a flotation device placed between your legs. Hand paddles are also often used on pulling sets.

Race Pace Training

Swimming in a workout that simulates the speed at which you will compete.

Recovery (Active Recovery)

Restorative activities designed to allow you to regain strength and energy. During the workout, this may involve easy, slow swimming between work sets.  

RIMO (Reverse IM Order)

A swim in which you swim in reverse IM order: freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke, and butterfly. Each stroke must be swum for one-quarter of the total distance.  


A number of repetitive swims (repeats) at specific distances that typically involve an interval or a specific amount of rest. There is a limitless number of sets that vary in the number of repeats, distance, and interval. An example of a basic set is 10 x 100s @ 1:30.

Short Course Meters

A pool that is 25 meters long. Because a meter is slightly longer than a yard, this is a longer distance than a short course yards pool, which should be accounted for determining intervals or examining race times

Short Course Yards

A pool that is 25 yards long. This is the standard distance for most US pools.


Swimming at top speed in any given stroke.

SDK (Streamline Dolphin Kick)

Dolphin kick performed in a streamlined position commonly performed after the start or a turn.

SKPS (Swim Kick Pull Swim)

Abbreviation for a set that includes swim, kick, pull, and swim in that order.

SWOLF (Swim Golf)

The sum of strokes taken and swim time, usually done for a 50. Trying to lower SWOLF helps improve stroke effectiveness.


Training period designed to produce peak performance by a swimmer in a competition. A taper generally follows a higher-intensity phase and is a period during which a swimmer grows stronger through rest and recovery.

Test Set

The exact same set that is typically done numerous times throughout the year to gauge the swimmer's progress throughout the year or year to year. The first time you do a test set it may be to get your base fitness level and from then on it gauges your improvements through training.

VO2 Max Set

References the maximum amount of oxygen you can utilize while exercising. These types of sets involve swimming as fast as you can and then resting roughly twice as long as you were swimming. Repeat multiple times until you start to slow down significantly.  


A period of swimming in which you acclimate and warm your muscles for faster swimming, which is important to prevent injury. During warm-up, you should generally experience an increase in heart rate and respiration.