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If you’re new to swimming and have tried googling workouts for beginners, the acronyms may look like a foreign language. It can be intimidating and give you an excuse to stay dry. Depending on the source, even I get confused with terminology. Every coach and swimmer has a different style and a unique set of ways to describe sets, but there are some sport wide terms that most swimmers and coaches follow that can be useful to learn.
With the Beginner Swim Workout Series launch, I want to provide some tutorials and guidance if you’re new to swimming or have taken a LONG time off. This first article contains a swimming acronym guide, a freestyle drill sheet for (spoiler alert!) workout 2 dropping tomorrow, and some general books of swimming guidance and inspiration that I use as resources for myself as a swim parent, coach, and athlete. I’ll be posting more “Swimming 101” guides as we get into different strokes and set structures.
I hope you find these resources useful, as always – comment with questions!
IMO: Individual Medley Order (Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke, Freestyle
RIMO: Reverse IM Order (Free, Breast, Back, Fly)
CH: Choice Stroke
NF: No freestyle
BC: Breath control
Pads: Use paddles
B: Use pull buoy
BU: Build (Build the set. Example: 1×100 BU by 25 means each 25 from 1-4 gets a little faster)
FRIM: Freestyle IM (An IM with no butterfly)
RI: Rest Interval (Example: 4×50 @ :15 sec RI – Take 15 seconds between each 50)
Desc: Descend (Example: 3×100 Desc = each 100 gets faster)
N/S: Negative Split. The second half of the swim is faster than the first.
PR: Primary Stroke (Your best stroke)
ST: Stroke (fly, back, or breast)
SCM: Short course meters (25 meter pool length)
SCY: Short course yards (25 yard pool length)
LCM: Long course meters (50 meter pool length)
OTB: Off the block – race from the starting block
SN: Use a snorkel
BE: Breathe every (Example: 1×100 BE 3 strokes)
KOB: Kick on your back
Common Freestyle Drills:
This is a collection of common drills that I use often myself and for my young age group swimmers. The chart below tells the title, abbreviation I will use in the future as I write workouts, and a video sample. I believe a video speaks a lot louder than a lengthy description, but I did put some notes below for each drill.
For a great drill reference book, you can invest in The 100 Best Swimming Drills ($15.52, Amazon)
|Drill Name||Abrev.||Video Link|
|Head Lead Kick + Rotate||HL+R||https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDdyvNRdh8Q|
|12 Kick Switch||12KS||Same as 6 kick switch – count 12 kick instead of 6|
|6 Kick Switch||6KS||https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqN3D7YCbZg|
|3 Strokes + 12KS||3S12K||Same as 3 stroke 6 kick switch – count 12 kick instead of 6|
|3 Strokes + 6KS||3S6K||https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvlJMn85lh4|
|Fingertip Drag (High Elbow Drill)||FD||https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XITzpum5lxA|
|Tarzan Drill (Head-up Dril)l||Tarzan||https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhhxeyWeh_s|
Drill 1: Head Lead Kick + Rotate. Think of this drill as freestyle surface kick with your arms at your side. As you kick, rotate your body a quarter turn so each shoulder rotates out of the water. This drill is going to help with stabilizing your core, which in turn will help keep your hips from sinking. The goal is to roll your body on a horizontal axis.
Drill 2: 6/12 Kick Switch & 3 Strokes 6/12 Kick Switch. These are all essentially the same drill, just building on as you go. Start with 12 kick (or 12 count) switch. Again this drill is about using your core to stabilize your stroke. As you rotate, you will really be able to feel if your body is off balance or moving off that horizontal access. You may feel like you’re starting to go sideways or your hips are sinking. Remember to initiate the turn with your hips, and kick lightly or with fins for extra balance.
Drill 3. Catch Up Drill. This drill should really force you to slow down your stroke and focus on staying long. If you tend to enter your hand right by your head, use this as a way to practice that long entry. As you bring your hand around to “catch” your other hand, feel the acceleration.
Drill 4. Flick Drill. This drill focuses on your stroke recovery. As you enter your hand and begin recovery, exaggerate your acceleration and really “flick” your arm around. This will train you to use that recovery as a power tool.
Drill 5. Fingertip Drag. I use this drill as an opportunity to practice getting my elbows nice and high in the water and relax my hands and fingertips.
Drill 6. Sailboat Drill. Sailboat drill is a little challenging, but good for feeling your body balance on that horizontal axis in the water. If it’s your first time, try this drill with fins. With your arm in that sailboat position, you will quickly feel if you are off balance or if your hips are tending to sink.
Drill 7. Fist Swimming. This drill is really all about the feel of the water. Rather than being able to pull through the water with your hands, you will feel the water on your forearms. The idea here is to really appreciate the power of your pull through the water. With your hands in a fist, you won’t have water to grab.
Drill 8. Tarzan (Head Up) Drill. I use this drill a lot for my younger swimmers to prevent what I call “wiggle worming”. This drill forces you to keep your head up and straight, which prevents you from crossing your hands over in front of your face. This cross-over is what causes a swimmer to throw their hips from side to side instead of rotating on an axis. Pick a point on the opposite side of the wall and try to keep your head fixed on that point so it won’t move side to side as you stroke.
Swimming Books & Resources
Below are some of my favorite books about swimming. Some of them are technical, and some inspirational. If you have any other great books or resources you know of, please comment below!
Technical/Coaching Guides (also good reference for parents trying to understand a coaching mindset):
1. Developing Swimmers by Michael Brooks (Amazon, $19.95)
2. Progressions for Athlete and Coach Development by USA Swimming (Amazon, $4.35 + shipping)
Good Swimming Reads/Inspirational:
1. Age is Just a Number by Dara Torres – I love this book for inspiration about being a older athlete or mother/athlete. If you ever feel like it’s too late for you – pick up this book. (Amazon, $12.64 – paperback)
2. Find a Way by Diana Nyad – Truly amazing read about overcoming immense obstacles and achieving your goals. (Amazon, $12.15 – paperback)
3. Swimming to Antarctica by Lynne Cox – Mind-blowing story of pushing the limits of human physical capabilities. (Amazon, $11.55)
4. Catch Them Being Good: Everything You Need to Know to Successfully Coach Girls by Tony Dicicco with Colleen Hacker – This book actually focuses on the sport of soccer, but it is SO applicable to swimming and really any sport. This is meant to be a coach’s guide but it is so insightful that I feel it’s a MUST read for parents as well. It was recommended to me by an aunt who coaches water polo when I was about to start coaching and it did not disappoint. (Amazon, $12.26)