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Glossary of Swimming Terms and Workouts

by Coach Mo Chambers - from United States Masters Swimming

4-kick-drill Freestyle kick on your side, with the lower arm extended (parallel to the surface of the water, about 6-8" under the water) and the upper (above water) arm relaxed on the side of your body. After a 4-count, stroke with the underwater arm and recover with the above water arm, so that they switch positions and you're now rotated to the other side. Count again for 4 and switch. Breath on the new side, just after you rotate, then return your face to the water, looking at the bottom in great freestyle swimming position. Keep your head, neck and spine in a align.

Alternate Breathing Breathing every 3rd stroke.

Build or Build-up Increase your effort through a swim. For example, if you swim a 400 build, your effort and speed will increase through the swim.

Breaststroke drill - 2 kicks, 1 pull Swimming breaststroke with 1 pull and then 2 kicks. Focus on length in stroke.

Catch-up A freestyle stroke drill where both hands "catch-up" in the front of the stroke. Keep the extended arm and hand underwater and enter the "incoming" hand closer to your shoulder and extend it to the meet the other hand underwater. The focus is on keeping the stroke long and a hand in the "passing-zone" up front.

Cruise Cruise refers to the send-off interval that you swim 100 freestyle on comfortably, getting 7-10 seconds rest. 4 x 100 on "cruise" would then be 4 x 100 on that interval. 4 x 100 on "cruise - :05" would be 4 x 100 on that interval minus 5 seconds. If cruise is specified for a distance other than 100, simply do the math to figure out the interval for that distance. For example, if your 100 cruise interval is 2:00, then your 50 cruise interval is 1:00 and your 200 cruise interval is 4:00.

Drag Fingertips Freestyle swim dragging your fingertips in the water on the recovery. Focus is on high-elbow, relaxed arm and shoulder recovery.

Descend Increasing your effort and speed through a series of repetitions. For example 4 x 50, descend 1->4 means to swim each of the 50's faster than the previous.

Distance Per Stroke or DPS Swim, with an emphasis on maximizing your distance per stroke.

Drill is an extension of warm-up with closer attention to technique and will transition you to the main set. Typically this is a combination of stroke drills and kicking mixed with technique focused swimming.

Gallop drill The gallop drill is exactly like the 4-kick-drill except that you will take three strokes when transitioning from one side to the other. Do not breath while taking those three strokes, focusing on length in your stroke, body rotation, keeping your head still. Breath on the new side as you rotate for the four count. This is a great drill for working on alternate breathing and stroke symmetry.

Kick on your side Freestyle kick while lying on your side. Keep the lower (underwater) arm extended (parallel to the surface of the water, about 6-8" under the water) and the upper (above water) arm relaxed on the side of your body. Breath on the new side, just after you rotate, simply by rotating your head so that you're in the "nose-up" position, then return your face into the water (nose-down), looking at the bottom in great freestyle swimming position. Keep your head, neck and spine in a align.

L-arm-only freestyle see Single-arm-freestyle

Long-axis-combo drill This is a combination of the long-axis strokesfreestyle and backstroke. Take four strokes of freestyle then rotate to your back and swim four strokes of backstroke, then free, then back ... Feel the similar rhythm of these two strokes as you rotate along the long axis of your body.

Main is the main set of the workout.

Mid-pool turn A mid-pool turn is basically a somersault mid-pool. Somewhere mid-pool, swim into a turn, but go all the way through and keep swimming in the same direction. Stay small (small balls spin quicker than large balls) and be quick using your "ab's" to bring your hips over top of your shoulders.

Pull Pull sets typically appear towards the end of a workout. You may choose to use a buoy and/or paddles for these sets or just simply swim them. The most important thing is to refocus on technique here and keep the heart rate low.

Rest Interval or RI Specifies the rest interval between repetitions. You may use the pace clock to count off the seconds or figure out what send-off interval would work to give you about that much rest.

R-arm-only freestyle see Single-arm-freestyle

Rhythm Drill After you've mastered the single-arm-freestyle with the opposite arm at your side, try this great freestyle drill to improve stroke timing. This is basically 2 right-arm strokes (with opposite arm down) and then 2 left-arm strokes. Remember to rotate, keep head in line with your spine, and complete your stroke while your bottom arm is extended before you begin the stroke.

Rhythm Drill for backstroke Alternate 2 strokes of right-arm-only backstroke with 2 strokes of left-arm-only backstroke. Keep the opposite (non-working) arm at your side. Focus on core body rotation, keeping your head still and in line with your spine and stroke rhythm.

Sculling Propel yourself down the pool using a simple in/out sweeping motion of your hands. The pitch and speed of your hand will determine how fast you go. Use a light kick and lift your head to breath.

Short-axis-combo drill This is a combination of the short-axis strokesbreaststroke and butterfly. Take three strokes of butterfly then three strokes of breaststroke, then fly, then breast ... Feel the similar rhythm of these two strokes as you rotate along the short axis of your body.

Single-arm butterfly Swim fly with one arm only. You may choose to keep the opposite arm in front or at your side. Breath to the side of the working arm.

Send-off Interval The send-off interval indicates the interval of time between send-offs. For example, a swimmer swimming 50's on a send-off of 1:00 would leave every minute. If she swims the 50 in 45 seconds, she will get :15 seconds rest before the next send-off. When using a send-off interval it is important to use a pace clock and always remember when you left. When the send-off interval is "First + :10" it means to add 10 seconds to your first swim and then use this as your send-off time. For example, if a swimmer swim the first 50 in 1:05, then he will do the entire set of 50's on 1:15.

Single-arm-freestyle With opposite arm extended: Keeping the non-working arm extended in front, stroke only with the Right or Left arm as indicated. Focus on a clean hand entry into the water; a slow, high-elbow catch; and accelerating the hand through the stroke. With opposite arm at your side: This is a bit more challenging drill, but worth the effort. Starty by kicking on your side with the bottom arm extended and your top arm resting on your side. Keeping your top arm (the non-working arm) at your side, stroke with the bottom arm. Important tips for this drill: (1) rotate, rotate, rotate; (2) Breath to the opposite (non-working) side and complete the breath before you stroke. Focus on holding the water at the catch and moving your body past your hand with your core muscles.

Sprint and Sight For open water swimmers, this is freestyle with a quick tempo, taking a "peek" every 4-6 strokes as if you're sighting a bouy ahead. Sprint and Sight swimming typically appears in the summer workouts when many swimmers are preparing for open water swimming and triathlons.

Stroke Count or SC The number of strokes it takes you to swim the length of the pool. Count each arm as a stroke. The simplest way to do this is to count each hand entry. Stroke Count - 1 means to do a length of the pool in your normal stroke count minus one stroke. This means focusing on staying long and "riding out" each stroke.

Warm-down is your chance to cool down and congratulate yourself on a good swim

Warm-up The entry point to the workout and always the same. If you need more or prefer something different, feel free to go for it. Remember to take the time to stretch after some easy swimming. This is the time to adjust caps, goggles, etc. and get fired up to have some fun.

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