Stroke Terminology
Adam Oxner avatar
Written by Adam Oxner
Updated over a week ago

Legal Competition Strokes

There are a lot of ways to swim through the water, but only four strokes are recognized by FINA, swimming’s international governing body. They are:

  • Butterfly

  • Backstroke

  • Breaststroke

  • Freestyle

You can learn more about what's expected of each stroke on FINA's site here.

Swimming Stroke Abbreviations


Kicking is swimming without using your arms (legs only). You may use a kickboard to help keep your head above water, or you can hold a streamline on your back or stomach if no kickboard is available.

Kick sets are meant to help you focus on improving your kick, so you can kick stronger during regular swimming.


A swimming drill is an exercise done to help your swimming technique. It's usually a modified version of a competition stroke - like butterfly with only one arm, or swimming freestyle with your hands clenched into fists.

It's meant to help you focus on a specific part of your technique, like arm position, kick or breathing rate, or a number of other things.


Pulling is swimming without kicking. It's generally done by putting a pull buoy between your legs to keep them afloat while you swim, so you can focus on your arms.

Oftentimes, pulling involves wearing paddles, which are made of flat plastic, and attach to your hands to add resistance and help you build strength in your pull.

Individual Medley (IM)

Individual medley (IM) involves swimming equal parts of each of the four competition strokes, in a specific order. That order is:

  1. Butterfly

  2. Backstroke

  3. Breaststroke

  4. Freestyle

So a 100m IM would be:

  1. 25m Butterfly

  2. 25m Backstroke

  3. 25m Breaststroke

  4. 25m Freestyle

Freestyle IM - (FrIM)

FrIM stands for Freestyle IM. In FrIM, you do the regular IM order, but replace butterfly with freestyle. It's meant to be a less tiring alternative to regular IM, so you can train for longer, or focus on the backstroke/breaststroke parts of the IM. It looks like this:

  1. Freestyle

  2. Backstroke

  3. Breaststroke

  4. Freestyle

So a 100 FrIM would be:

  1. 25m Freestyle

  2. 25m Backstroke

  3. 25m Breaststroke

  4. 25m Freestyle

Stroke - (ST)

Stroke means "anything but Freestyle"! When you see Stroke listed in a workout you are free to choose whichever stroke you'd like. Although the app would like you to swim something other than freestyle is is your workout and you can swim which ever stroke you like!

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