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Synchro Swimming Glossary



    Artistic impression - A free routine category of scoring to which half the judges are assigned. Choreography, musical interpretation and overall impression are considered.

    Ascending spin - Rotating while rising from the ankles to a maximum height vertical position and completing at least a 180° turn.

    Assistant chief judge - Has responsibility for any duties assigned to them by the chief judge.

    Assistant referee - Meet official that takes on any duties assigned by the meet referee.


    Back layout - The swimmer lies face-up with as much of the front of the body at the surface of the water as possible.

    Back pike position - With legs together and extended, the body is bent at the hips to create an angle of 45° or less.

    Ballet leg - A back layout position with one leg lifted perpendicular to the surface.

    Barrel scull - A type of sculling used most often when transitioning between a front layout and a front pike position. It is performed by rotating the hands around each other over the head.

    Beeping - This is the way that synchronized swimmers count for each other underwater when there is no music available. The “beeper” makes a noise like a little grunt for each count for the rest of the team to follow.

    Bent knee back layout - A back layout position with one knee bent so the thigh is perpendicular to the surface and the toe touching the opposite leg. Also known as the sailboat position.

    Bent knee surface arch - A surface arch position with one knee bent so the thigh is perpendicular to the surface and the toe touching opposite leg. Also known as the nova position.

    Bent knee vertical - A vertical position where one leg is bent down and the toe touches the knee or thigh. Also known as the heron position.

    Boost - A fast, headfirst rise from underwater. The goal is to get as much body out of the water as possible. Sometimes called a jump.


    Cadence action - A movement or series of movements performed in sequential order by each swimmer one-by-one.

    Canoe scull - A type of sculling used in a front layout position. The palms face the bottom of the pool and move underneath the chest or stomach on the in-sculls and out to the sides on out-sculls.

    Chief judge - Coordinates and organizes all day-of, on-site logistics for the judges, including the judges' meeting, which occurs prior to the start of competition.

    Combination routine - An event in which ten swimmers perform together in groups of varying numbers throughout the routine. Swimmers not performing in a portion of the routine eggbeater and are not allowed to touch the side or bottom of the pool. Called "combo" for short.

    Combined spin - A descending spin that turns a minimum of 360°, followed immediately by an equal rotation ascending spin in the same direction.

    Continuous spin - A rapid descending spin that turns a minimum of 720°.

    Crane position - A vertical position in which one leg is extended forward to create a 90° angle with the legs.


    D.D. - Abbreviation for degree of difficulty.

    Deckwork - The choreography performed on the deck in ten seconds or less for most routines prior to entering the pool.

    Degree of difficulty - A number assigned to a figure that weights the score in correlation to the skill required to perform it.

    Descending spin - Rotating while sinking from a maximum height vertical position, completing at least a 180° turn by the time the swimmer's heels reach the surface.

    Dolphin - A headfirst underwater circle performed starting from a back layout, completed by resurfacing in a back layout.

    Dolphin arch - When the head, back and hips are arched to create an arc or part of a circle shape.

    Double ballet leg - Position with the face at the surface with both legs extended and perpendicular to the surface.

    Duet - An event in which two swimmers perform a routine together.


    Eggbeater - A method of treading water in which the lower legs rotate in opposite directions and the feet are flexed to create water pressure.

    Execution - A technical routine category of scoring to which half the judges are assigned. 70% of the score is based on required elements and 30% is determined by the rest of the routine.


    Falling on a spin - It’s not quite as disastrous as it sounds, but falling on a spin means that your spin isn’t straight and tipped over in one or multiple directions.

    Figure - A specific series of body positions, the majority of which involve holding the legs out of the water.

    Figure competition - An event in which junior level and younger swimmers perform a chosen group of figures individually in front of panels of judges.

    FINA - The international governing body for aquatic sports, including synchronized swimming, swimming, diving, water polo, and open water swimming. FINA writes the rules for and sanctions international competitions.

    Fishtail position - Almost the same as a crane position, but with the foot of the front leg remaining at the surface regardless of the water level.

    Flamingo position - A ballet leg position with the horizontal leg bent in toward the chest and the shin parallel to the surface. The vertical leg should bisect the calf of the opposite leg.

    Float - A flat form or shape created on the surface by two or more swimmers connecting.

    Flutter kick - Rapid up-and-down movement of the feet, which provides propulsion.

    Free routine - A solo, duet, or team routine in which swimmers perform choreography of their choice, without any required elements. Free routines are longer than technical routines.

    Front layout - The swimmer lies face-down with as much of the back of the body at the surface as possible. The face may be in our out of the water.

    Front pike position - The body creates a 90° angle by bending at the hips, while keeping the legs together and extended.

    Front walkover - From a split position, the front leg lifts through a knight position and lowers to a surface arch. The body surfaces to finish in a back layout. For the entire Front Walkover figure, see the rule book.

    Full twist - A 360° rotation on the vertical axis at a sustained height usually performed in a vertical position.


    Half twist - A 180° rotation on the vertical axis at a sustained height usually performed in a vertical position.

    Highlight - A particularly interesting, impressive or special piece of a routine.

    Hybrid figure - Choreography done using the legs during a routine that combines both positions, transitions and parts of figures.


    Judges - Meet officials in charge of scoring routines. Most events have 10 judges, 5 for each scoring category. They sit along the sides of the pool in different arrangements depending on the competition.

    Judging Panel - A group of judges chosen to score a specific event.


    Knight position - A vertical position with one leg extended behind the body on the surface, which causes an arch in the lower back. The hips, shoulders and head remain vertically in-line.

    Knox - A brand of flavorless gelatin, worn in hair to keep it in place during competition. The process is sometimes called Knoxing.

    Knoxing - Knox is one of the brands of unflavored gelatin that synchro swimmers make into a gel and then use to slick their hair back with for competition. It became a verb for the gelling process. For example you might hear, “I’m gonna go knox now.”


    Level - Where the surface of the water creates a line on the body. Also known as the water level or water line.

    Lift - When one or more swimmers hold or throw one or more swimmers above the surface of the water.


    Marks - Another term for scores.

    Mock meet - An imitation of a meet held during practice, used as a developmental tool.

    Move in - This pattern correction means you are too far away from the center of the pattern, so move in!


    Nose clip - A piece of equipment used to pinch the nostrils closed to keep out water when swimmers are inverted.


    On your back - This correction is the opposite of “on your face.” It means that your leg or legs are tipped back closer to the surface instead of straight up.

    On your face - This is a correction for an upside-down position that is supposed to be vertical. It means that your leg or legs are tipped forward, making the front of your legs closer to the surface of the water.

    Overall impression - A technical routine category of scoring to which half the judges are assigned. Choreography, synchronization, difficulty and manner of presentation are all considered.

    Over-piking - When you get this correction, it means that your pike position is too closed; your body is forward and too close to your legs.


    Pattern - The formation that a team holds during any period of choreography. It changes many times during one routine.

    Pelvic tilt - This is often the recommendation for curing a piked vertical. Pelvic tilting means tipping your pelvis so that your hips curl forward and the curve in your lower back flattens out.

    Penalty - Amount deducted from the score for rule infractions. Different amounts are deducted for different infractions.

    Piked - If your coach tells you are piked, it means that you should be in vertical alignment, but instead, your behind is sticking out. Usually this leads to you leaning on your face.

    Platform lift - A type of lift where one swimmer lays out flat in order to create a surface for another to stand on. Other teammates help support the platform by eggbeatering.

    Pool pattern - The pathway around the pool that a routine takes from start to finish.

    Porpoise lift - Beginning in a front pike position with legs at the surface, both legs lift to achieve a vertical position.

    Pre-deckwork - The pre-deckwork is the way the swimmers assume their deckwork position after finishing the walk-on, before the music starts; it is sometimes elaborate and sometimes just striking a pose.

    Pre-swimmer - A non-competing swimmer who performs before the competitors for the purpose of "warming-up" the judges.

    Propulsion - Any underwater technique used to move through the water.


    Reach! - This is the coach’s way of asking (telling) you to stretch your arms and/or legs out so you have a larger range of motion. Reaching will make you look longer too.

    Referee - Meet official in charge of enforcing penalties, making sure competition adheres to rules and is the final arbiter of any question related to the conduct of the meet. The referee also approves all results.

    Reverse combined spin - An ascending spin of at least 360 degrees, followed immediately by a descending spin in the same direction.

    Routine - Strokes, figures, and all choreography performed by swimmers to music.


    Score - A number given by a judge based on their evaluation of the quality. The scale goes from 0 to 10 in tenth of a point increments with 10 being a perfect score.

    Scorer - Meet official who records the judges' scores and calculates the results. At the end of the event, the scorer gives the judges their evaluation data.

    Sculling - Hand movements that propel, stabilize, and balance a swimmer's body.

    Sharpness - This qualitative term refers to the way a swimmer does a move. The faster and more forcefully energetic the move is performed, the sharper it is said to be. Most of the time, sharper is considered better.

    Side layout - The swimmer lies on with one side of the body at the surface and the other facing the bottom. Usually while flutter kicking.

    Solo - An event in which one swimmer performs a routine alone.

    Sound center - The location or enclosure where a coach or sound technician plays routine music and/or uses a microphone. Used for practice or competition.

    Sound technician - Meet official in charge of the sound system and music for the routines.

    Spin - The act of rotating, head downward, in varying positions, most basically in a vertical position.

    Split position - One leg is extended forward and the other leg is extended backwards to achieve a 180° angle on the surface. The lower back is arched and the hips and head are in a vertical line.

    Split Rocket - A split position performed at maximum water level, beginning with a thrust. The legs then close back to a vertical position and the swimmer descends. Sometimes called rocket split or split crash.

    Stack lift - A type of lift where swimmers stand on each others' shoulders while other teammates assist.

    Standard scull - A type of sculling used most often when the swimmer is in a back layout or variety of ballet leg positions. The hands are by the hips.

    Strokes - Portion of choreography done upright and using the arms.

    Support scull - The type of sculling used most often when the swimmer is inverted for maximum sustained height. Elbows are near the waist, and the forearms are out to the side.

    Surface arch - The hips to feet remain at the surface of the water while the body is arched down so the shoulders and head create as close to a vertical line under the hips as possible.

    Synchronization - Moving in unison with other swimmers and relative to the music.


    Team - An event in which a group of four to eight swimmers perform together. For other team events such as the combination routine, more than eight may be allowed or required.

    Technical element - A movement, figure, pattern, or lift required in technical routines. The technical elements vary depending on skill level. Sometimes just called an element.

    Technical merit - A technical routine category of scoring to which half the judges are assigned. Execution, synchronization and difficulty are considered.

    Technical routine - A solo, duet or team routine that contains required elements performed in a certain order. Elements vary depending on skill level and competition. They are shorter in length than free routines.

    Thrust - An explosive movement that begins in a back pike with legs perpendicular to the surface. The swimmer then emerges feet first as quickly as possible, while the body unrolls underneath the legs to vertical.

    Timekeepers - Officials at a competition responsible for timing the routines.

    Transitions - The movements that connect strokes, figures and other positions in a routine.

    Tuck position - The knees are pulled as close in to the chest as possible, heels are as close to buttocks as possible and the head close to knees. Legs are together.

    Twirl - A quick 180° twist.

    Twist - A rotation on the vertical axis at a sustained height usually performed in a vertical position.

    Twist spin - A half twist, followed by a continuous spin.


    Up! - When you hear this, do whatever you are doing higher out of the water.


    Vertical position - The swimmer is extended perpendicularly to the surface and lined up from ankles to hips to head. The head is down towards the bottom and the legs are out of the water.


    Walk-on - This is the part before a routine when the swimmers walk from the edge of the pool to the center of the deck. Usually, it’s done in unison with counts, and sometimes, a little added theme-related flare.

    Windows - A window is the space in a pattern between two other swimmers that you can look through. If you’re in the window, that means that you are one row behind and centered between two people.

Check out this Synchro Swimming glossary to find the sport-specific definitions for which you have been looking. From A to Z, we've got all the words covered.
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