Synchronized swimming terms explained

Knowing your ballet leg from your boost in synchronised swimming

Our synchronized swimming  guide aims to help you swim your way through some of the commonly used synchronized swimming jargon so you don’t drown in a pool of terms. Rather like gymnastics, there are whole range of terms used in synchronized swimming, many of which apply to particular moves and are specific to the sport. There are also terms which you may recognize from other sports of a similar nature, such as diving or figure skating.

Artistic impression

This is one of the categories by which the event is judged — it is the overall effect and feel of a routine covering the three areas of choreography, interpretation of music and manner of presentation.

Synchronised swimming terms explained

Back layout

A position in which the body is extended with heads, hips and ankles in line at the surface.

Ballet leg

A position in which one leg is extended perpendicular to the water surface — with the body flat on the surface. A ballet leg double would have both legs extended perpendicular to the water surface.


A quick head-first rise out of the water; the aim is to raise as much of the body above the surface as possible.

Cadence action

A sequence of identical movements performed one-by-one by all team members, individually and in rapid succession — almost like a domino effect.

Combined spin

A descending spin of 360 degrees or more, followed immediately by an equal ascending spin.

Continuous spin

A descending spin, with a rapid rotation through at least two complete revolutions of the body.


A position in which the body is extended upward and one leg is extended forward at a 90 degree angle.


Movements performed on the side of the pool prior to entering the water.


A move in which the swimmer, from a flat position on the surface, dives headfirst and swims down and under, re-emerging at the original location.


An event featuring two swimmers performing simultaneous movements together.


Rapid circular motion with the legs to support and propel the upper body while in an upright position, leaving the arms free.



A formation on the surface in which the all swimmers are connected horizontally.

Free routine

A routine combining moves of the free choice of the competitors.

Front pike

An L-shape position; the body is bent at the hips, with the legs and trunk extended the back straight and the head in line.


A move in which one or more swimmers lift a team member or members above the water surface.

Nose clip

The device that covers the nostrils to prevent water getting up the nose while underwater.

Required elements

Set moves which must be performed in the technical routine.


Continuous movement of the hands in the water to keep the body afloat.


10 swimmers make up a team, but only eight are allowed to swim at any one time, although they can be changed between routines.

Technical merit

One of the categories by which synchronized swimming is judged — it is based primarily on the ability of the athletes to execute certain movements with precision.

Technical routine

A routine in which certain required elements must be performed in a pre-ordained order.


A position in which the knees are brought close to the head, with the heels close to the backside and the back rounded.

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