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Bite Size - Swim terminology 101

Brush up on common pool workout terms with our glossary.


(ex: “4×100 on 2:00, descend 1–4”): The goal of this set is to decrease the time it takes to swim each 100. Swim the first 100 at a conservative effort, No. 2 a bit faster, the third even faster and No. 4 your fastest. This type of set is best for learning how to control pace so you finish strong.


(ex: “8×50 on :60, build each 50”): This term refers to effort and means to build from an easy effort at the beginning of each 50 to a strong effort by the end of the 50. Typically, this term is found in a warm-up set to gradually increase your heart rate to prepare for the main set.

Breathing Pattern

(ex: “5×150 on 3:00, 3/5/7 breathing pattern by 50”): This set instructs you to swim the first 50 breathing every third stroke, the second 50 breathing every fifth stroke, and the final 50 of each 150 breathing every seventh stroke.


(ex: “500 TT”): Time trial. This means you’ll do a timed effort of a prescribed distance, going as fast as you can for that interval. These are good opportunities to test your fitness to compare to past and future sets of similar length.


Swim as easily as possible during this type of set to get your heart rate and breathing to return to normal and allow your body to recover fully. There are no winners or records to be set during a recovery swim.

Negative Split

(ex: “500 pull, negative split”): Swim the second half faster than the first half. In this example, the second 250 should be faster than the first. This type of interval teaches pace control and finishing strong.


(ex: “4×100 base”): Your “base pace” is the pace you can comfortably hold for multiple 100s in a row with a few seconds to spare at a moderate effort. So, if you can swim 10x100s comfortably hitting 1:35–1:37 every time, you belong in the 1:40 or 1:45 lane. Some workouts are prescribed off of base, so you may be assigned 100 on base, 200 on base +:05, etc.

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