Swimming-tips-and-techniques-for-beginnersFor those who learned to swim at an early age, this might be a boring article for you. But for those of you who like me have learned to swim as an adult and have only been swimming for a few years, it’s a whole new world. Admittedly, when I first learned to swim I  felt down-right enamored with the shear amount I did not know about the sport.

Besides already being a beginner swimmer and being insecure about my form and my skill level (or really, my lack there of), I was also insecure about my overall lack of knowledge about the sport. Really there wasn’t much I did know about swimming other than that swimming involved water and not drowning. The terms, the lingo, the inside jokes and all those damn contraptions – I didn’t know what any of it was! Needless to say, it was a whirlwind in the beginning but once I started swimming more, and most importantly, when I started swimming with a US Masters team, everything came full circle when all those gaps eventually were filled in.

With that being said, listed below are swimming terms and definitions that I was unaware of when I first started swimming. For advanced swimmers, this will all seem elementary. For a first time swimmer, you will benefit from being able to review many things I had to learn slowly overtime. My hope is that beginners will benefit from this exposure and that they can avoid being embarrassed when say… everyone looks at you as if you have 18 heads when a Masters coach asks you if you have pulls, and you look at him as if you have no idea what he’s talking about because YOU DON’T! Simply put: benefit from my shame!

More: The Seven Keys To Freestyle Swimming



Double arm and double kick with body in a wave like form; straight arm recovery.


Also known as “back crawl”: Alternating arm and kick with pronounced roll on each pull.


Double arm and kick, underwater recovery, modified frog kick (whip kick).


Alternating arm and kick, breathing to side, standard stroke used by all.

Individual Medley

Or, commonly known as simply “IM” is all of the above mentioned strokes combined, in this exact order – Butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle.



Swim Kick Pull Swim.

Kick drill

Usually with a swim board stretched out in front of you; swimmers often wear fins when doing this.

Pull buoy

This is a plastic foam that you put between legs so that you can concentrate on your pull and breathing techniques without kicking.


Like many other sports, this is when you start at a specific time. This exercise is typically repeated a few times, with rest factored in. For example: “200m in 3:45 x’s 3 sets w/ 30 secs of rest in between each set.

On the “…”

This is typically a certain time to start your set on – it is usually at the 60 or 30 second mark. 60 is referred to as “Leave on the top” as in when the second had hit the top of the clock (60 second mark) and 30 is referred to as “Leave on the bottom” as in when the second had hit the bottom of the clock (30 second mark).


Distance per stroke, the number of yards or meters one arm stroke takes you.


Or, stroke cycle – this is noted as one stroke count equaling two arm strokes.


This is speed work, where the speed varies during a continuous swim. For instance; 25 meters fast, 50 meters slow, 25 meters fast x’s 3 sets.


A related group of swims.


This is the warm up, which is a short swim done before the main series of the workout to start to raise your heart rate and help loosen up your muscles.


This is the warm down or cool down, which is a short swim done after the main series to help you relax and to avoid soreness that tends to result after a hard workout.



Increase or decrease in distance, either straight through like 400, 300, 200, 100 or 4×100, 4×75, 4×50, 4×25, or 4×100, 3×100, 2×100, 100, or mix them or reverse the order.


As above, but rather up and down, such as 8×50, 4×100, 2×200, 1×400, and back down.


Straight is a swim without stopping; Broken is a distance divided into shorter swims. Alternate straight and broken, for example, would be 500, 10×50, 400, 8×50, 300, 6×50, etcetera. You can SKPS on the straight yardage, and swim on the broken.


You descend either the strokes or the time. A combination example: Swim slow 50, counting strokes; swim same speed with fewer strokes; swim 2 seconds faster with the fewer strokes, rest and do the 3×50 five times, each slow, slow with fewer strokes and faster with same stroke count. Any distance can be used for several repeats and then start from the top.

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