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Training Terms
Adam Oxner avatar
Written by Adam Oxner
Updated over a week ago

Active Recovery

Active recovery is the idea of "recovering" from a more difficult part of a workout, while still moving/exerting some effort.

For example, after doing a 100 all-out, you may immediately push off again for a 50 easy. Because you aren't resting at the wall, but are still catching your breath by swimming easy, you are engaging in active recovery.

This type of recovery is meant to help improve your body's response to lactic acid (produced during anaerobic exercise).

Aerobic Training

Aerobic training involves swimming at a moderate pace over a long period of time.

When you do an aerobic swim set, your body enters Aerobic Respiration, in which your cells produce energy using oxygen.

If you are training aerobically, your cells are in aerobic respiration

Anaerobic Training

Anaerobic training involves high intensity swimming that produces lactic acid.

When you do a high intensity swim set at sprint or race pace, your body enters Anaerobic Respiration, causing your cells to produce energy without oxygen.

If you are training anaerobically, your cells will produce most of their energy using anaerobic respiration.


Ascend means that you will swim slower by time over the duration of a Set or repetition.

For example:

4 x 100 Freestyle - Ascend would mean you would split slower on each one. Splitting 1:23, 1:25, 1:28 and 1:30 would be ascending your splits.

Best Average

Best average means that you’ll swim as fast as possible while maintaining the same speed on every repetition within a Set.

For example:

4 x 100 Freestyle - Best Average means you want to go as fast as possible, and swim as close to the same time on each 100 as you can. That means you shouldn’t go all out on the first one, and fall apart by the final rep. without running out of energy by the end.

In a best average set, holding 1:09, 1:10, 1:10 and 1:11 would be better than holding 1:05, 1:08, 1:10 and 1:14, because it means you held your speed.


Your breakout is the moment you break the surface of the water after pushing off the wall. Essentially the first few strokes off the wall.

Having a strong breakout is very important in sprint races and it is common to practice it during sprint Sets. For example:

4 x 50s @ 1:00 Freestyle - "Fast breakouts"

Means to do your first three strokes off of each wall very fast, but swim more relaxed/moderate the rest of the length. Pretend you are racing to the 12.5 meter mark!


Build is swimming faster by the end of the Set or repetition. You can think of it as "speeding up" within each rep.

For example:

4 x 100 Freestyle - Build means that by the end of each 100, you will be going faster than at the start of each 100


Descend is swimming faster by time over the duration of a Set or repetition.

For example:

4 x 100 Freestyle - Descend means you want to go faster on each one. So if you split 1:30, 1:28, 1:25 and 1:23, you descended your splits.

Effort Levels

Effort Levels is a measure of intensity of effort on the Set.



Swim sets that incorporate breath control training. Examples include underwater kicking, or sets that limit breathing to every 3, 5, 7, 9 strokes, etc.

Lactate Set

Usually a high intensity sprint or race pace set that is very challenging. These sets produce lactic acid in the muscles, hence the name.

Negative Split

Negative split is swimming faster on the second half of an individual repetition.

For example:

If you negative split your 100 free, you may have split a 0:32 on the first 50, then a 0:29 on the second 50. Because you were faster on the second half, the 100 was negative split.

Odds & Evens

When a Set says to do something on the "odds," that means to do it on the odd-numbered reps.

When a Set says to do something on the "evens," it means to do it on the even-numbered reps.

For example, take the Set:

6 x 50 Free @ 1:00; Odds fast, evens easy

You should swim each 50 like this:

  1. 50 Free FAST

  2. 50 Free EASY

  3. 50 Free FAST

  4. 50 Free EASY

  5. 50 Free FAST

  6. 50 Free EASY


Split is the amount of time it takes you to swim a certain distance, usually in reference to a repetition in a Set.

For example:

If you're doing a Set of 4 x 100 and it takes you 1:24 to finish the first one, you split a 1:24.

Threshold Pace

Holding your threshold pace means maxing out your aerobic system and just barely entering your anaerobic system, in order to improve your aerobic fitness.

This term approximately means "the fastest pace at which you can hold the interval indefinitely."

Transition IM

Transition IM is doing a Set in IM order, but by "transition" segments instead of by stroke.

For example, 3 x 50 Transition IM looks like, by rep:

  1. 1 x 50 Fly/Back

  2. 1 x 50 Back/Breast

  3. 1 x 50 Breast/Free


Tapering refers to the practice of reducing your swimming volume and intensity in the days and weeks before an important competition. Whether you’re tapering for the 1,500m freestyle or the 50m freestyle, you need to make sure your body and mind are rested and prepared to swim fast.

During the taper phase of training, it’s very important to balance speed work, technique improvements and rest to maximize your chances of swimming a personal best time!

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