Artistic swimming glossary

"After a ballet leg, the swimmers of the French team started forming to do a throw lift". If this sentence doesn't mean anything to you, check out our "synchro swimming" glossary to try to understand the swimmers' rich vocabulary a little more! Some of them even answered our call on Instagram to help us in producing the glossary. So you don't forget anything!



The swimmer begins in the dolphin position, keeping the legs and hips on the surface as the body rolls. The front pike position is assumed as the legs are lifted simultaneously to a bent knee vertical position. After executing a half twist holding the position, the bent knee is extended to the vertical position. Finally, the swimmer executes a vertical descent.


The figure begins in a walkover back to the split position. The swimmer maintains the leg position relative to the surface while her hips rotate 180°. The figure ends in a walkout front.


Back layout position

The swimmer is lying on the water, keeping the feet, thighs, torso and head on the surface of the water. 
The ankles, hips and head should be aligned.

Back pike position

The swimmer starts underwater, the body bent at 45° at the hips, with the legs extended and together. The back remains straight and perpendicular to the surface, while the head is aligned with the trunk.
The toes should be just below the surface.

Ballet leg

One of the best-known figures in artistic swimming. It starts in a back layout position, legs extended, then folding one leg towards you (bent knee back layout position) and extending upwards so as to form a right angle with your body. The ballet leg can also be submerged, in this case, the water level must be between the knee and the ankle of the raised leg.


From a back layout position, the legs are raised and the body is submerged to a back pike position (the water level must not be over the ankles). A thrust is then executed to the vertical position in order to achieve a vertical descent, at the same tempo as the thrust. There are different variants of this figure, including one during which a spin is executed during the vertical descent.

There are different definitions of the barracuda. First of all, it is a thrust of the body out of the water. The swimmer begins in the pike position, legs vertical, body rolled up underwater. The unroll is carried out very quickly in order to rise as high as possible above the surface of the water. Following the thrust, the end may have variants: spin, split, front split...

Barracuda - compulsory figure

This is also a compulsory figure, which must be carried out in more specific manner. From a back layout position, the legs are raised and the body is submerged to a back pike position (the water level must not be over the ankles). A thrust is then executed to the vertical position in order to achieve a vertical descent, at the same tempo as the thrust. There are different variants of this figure, including one during which a spin is executed during the vertical descent.

Barrel scull

See Tub

Bent knee back layout position

The swimmer begins in the back layout position, with one leg extended on the surface. 
The other knee is bent so that the toes are in line with the knee of the extended leg.

Bent knee position

The body is in the layout position (front, back, vertical or arched) with one leg bent, the toe touching the inside of the leg extended between the knee and the thigh.

Breath control (freediving)

Holding your breath for a given time. Having good breath control is essential for swimmers in carrying out certain complex underwater figures.
If you want to look deeper into freediving, check out the Subea website, which offers a list of tips and benefits relating to this sport



Set of movements and artistic figures on music based on technical know-how. In competition, the aim is to demonstrate your abilities as much as possible, within a set period of time. 
You also need to stand out by being original, while staying in harmony with the rhythm of the music.


A combination is a routine which takes a longer time and which is involves eight to ten competitors. It is a mix between solos, duets and team routines, although a change in regulations also allows trios, quartets or other teams.


The body is in the vertical position, with one leg lowered 90° to the surface of the water. 
It can also be submerged.

Crane position

The body is submerged perpendicular to the surface, with one leg extended laterally and the other vertically.



The edge of the pool where the swimmers begin their choreography.


This is the name that swimmers use to talk about the disconnection of the movements of their arms and legs (especially when moving such as when eggbeating).


The figure begins in a back layout, in an arched position where the legs are held together and the head, hips and legs follow a curve, the dolphin arch. The body then follows the circumference of a circle of about 2.5 metres in diameter (depending on the height of the athlete), until the swimmer finds herself on the surface in the back layout position.

Double ballet leg

From a back layout position, the legs are extended perpendicular to the surface. The lower back is underwater and the head is aligned with the trunk. The double ballet leg can also be submerged: extended legs are perpendicular to the rest of the body. 
The surface of the water varies between the ankles and the knees.

Dry rehearsal

The choreographies are repeated by the swimmers on the deck of the pool, dry, before performing them in the water. The arms imitate the movements of the legs.


Routine performed by two swimmers.



Swimming technique using only the legs in an alternating rotational movement. 
Swimmers can also use their hands to scull in a "windscreen wiper" motion to keep themselves at the surface.


Feet-first jump

This is a jump from the poolside that allows you to enter the water cleanly. The swimmer makes a swing movement with her arms before flattening them along the body, extended, and entering the water straight. The jump can also be achieved with a turn, in which case the swimmer performs a horizontal rotation of 360° in the air, before entering the water.


Sequence of several positions with the legs and movements to form a whole. 
Figures can be compulsory or free.

Fishtail position

Identical to the crane position but the foot of the horizontal leg always remains at the surface (regardless of the height of the hips).


The body is in the back layout position with one leg perpendicular to the surface. 
The second leg bends, bringing the calf level with the leg at a right angle.
The face is out of the water, and the foot and knee are parallel to the surface.
This position can also be submerged, in this case, only the tip of the foot protrudes from the surface.


In a team routine, this is the placement of swimmers in order to draw geometric shapes on the surface of the water (square, rhombus, diamond, star, circle, etc.). In a technical routine, certain formations are compulsory such as circles or lines. The transition from one formation to another can be carried out underwater or through a movement.

Front layout position

The body is lying on the water, but this time, the heels, buttocks and upper back are on the surface. The head can be in or out of the water.

Front pike position

This is started in the front layout position to fully submerge the trunk perpendicular to the surface. Only the legs and buttocks remain on the surface of the water.



Show which consists of a routine performed by the swimmers of a group.


Food ingredient used by swimmers during competitions and galas to keep their hair in place during performances.



A routine swum by up to 10 people and which is mainly centred on lifts. A certain number of lifts is required, a contact figure as well as a "kaleidoscope" or float. The time is shorter than for the other routines.



The swimmer begins in the back layout position, assumes a ballet leg and rotates the body to move into the crane position. The horizontal leg then joins the vertical one and the swimmer executes a vertical descent into the water.


Knight position

The body is in a vertical position and the lower back is slightly arched. One leg is extended back, on the surface of the water. The head, shoulders and hips should be perfectly aligned.



These are complex figures, during which a swimmer is carried above the surface of the water or thrown
into the air, propelled by their team-mates (they are not allowed to touch the bottom of the pool). 
The best known lifts are throws (a swimmer is thrown above the surface and performs a figure in the air). They are figures widely acclaimed during competitions, especially during the world championships.



A must for artistic swimming routines. It is waterproof to hold during the entire performance. Eye make-up is highly vivid so that the swimmers' expressions can be seen from afar (by the public and the jury). It generally matches the colour scheme of the swimsuits and the caps of the swimmers, for aesthetic consistency. It also stops the swimmer from looking "washed out".


Music is one of the most important elements in artistic swimming, it is what sets the tone of the routine. It adds momentum and rhythm to the theme and therefore to the choreographic movements. There are no restrictions on the choice of music, but up-tempo music is often preferred. 
This makes it easier for the swimmers to count time to be perfectly synchronised.
In a free routine, or during certain competition events, the swimmers create their own sequence choreographed to music.


Nose clip

Metal accessory, covered with plastic, that prevents water from entering the nostrils by pinching them together. 
It is widely used, due to the many underwater figures performed by swimmers.



Sequence of movements to music. Routines can be performed as a team, solo or duet. They can be free, i.e. created with the music of the swimmers' choice within a given time, or technical, with figures imposed in a determined order.



Basic movement in artistic swimming. In a back layout position, and the legs, trunk and face are on the surface of the water. The body is kept on the surface thanks to the reciprocating movement of the hands called "flat sculling". The gaze is always fixed towards the sky and the toes of the feet must be extended. This movement is widely used during spins or eggbeating.


This is the regular arm movement that allows swimmers to stabilise vertically, as high as possible, feet up and head down. The arms are bent at 90° and rotate while the elbows remain alongside the body. The palms thus exert pressure on the water.


A routine performed by a single swimmer.


Rotation of the body in a fixed vertical position. It can be ascending or descending, when the heels touch the surface. There are multiple 180° and 360° spins (ascending or descending), including continuous and combined spins.


Position of the body in which the legs are spread horizontally on the ground or in the water and perpendicular to the trunk, as if they were an extension of each other. It can be: a flat split (one leg in front, the other behind), a front split (one leg on either side of the trunk, in the same alignment) or airborne (during a lift).

In artistic swimming, this position involves being immersed with your legs spread wide on the surface or out of the water (split thrust). The hips, head and shoulders are aligned vertically while the back is slightly arched.

Surface arch position

The legs are joined at the surface of the water while the head, shoulders and hips are aligned underwater. The lower back is arched.


Starting from a front layout position, tuck one leg into a bent knee front layout.
The lower back is arched and the chest fully submerged while the legs, still in the bent knee position, rise 180° to the surface. As soon as the extended leg is vertical, the bent one extends to assume a knight position. The vertical leg is then lowered to take a surface arch position, then a back layout is performed.


Another name for swimmers in artistic swimming.


Tap tap

Training technique where the coach taps a pole with a metal object to give rhythm to swimmers in and underwater. This is used to replace the music so that the swimmers can work their rhythm and their figures by counting time.

Team routine

It can be free or technical and can include from 4 to 8 swimmers, in competition. The free choreography includes figures of arm movements, lifts entirely together or dissociated depending on the moment. In a technical routine, all swimmers must perform the same movement, except for the compulsory lifts and the cadence action.


The swimmer is in the back pike position, then the legs and hips quickly rise to the surface while the body is positioned vertically. The goal is to get your legs out of the water as much as possible.

There are also different variants, such as the rocket split, where the swimmer assumes an airborne split position after the thrust, followed by a vertical descent into the water.

Torpedo scull

Propulsion movement allowing the synchros to move quickly in or on the water. 
The swimmer is lying on her back, arms raised in line with the body, with her bent wrists performing a rotational movement similar to that of the “flat scull”. The feet should remain on the surface, while the rest of the body is fully submerged. It is a movement very similar to sculling.

Tub (or barrel)

The legs are joined together and bent, with the knees and feet on the surface of the water. 
The thighs are perpendicular and the face is above the water.


Vertical position

The body is perpendicular to the surface of the water, with the head down and the legs together. 
The head, hips and ankles are aligned.



This movement begins in a split position and consists in bringing one leg to meet the opposite one, on the surface of the water, to end in a layout position. The walkout can be front (face, trunk and body towards the surface of the water) or back (body turned towards the bottom of the pool).

If you want to let us know what you think or tell us if there is a term missing from the glossary, please leave us a comment!


Sixtine de faletans

"Even when I was very young, I loved the aquatic environment and water sports. I love sports, and I've tried lots of them. Judo, aikido, badminton... But finally it was in the water that I was really happy with synchronised swimming. I immediately liked its two different aspects, and it has become a genuine love in my life! I was attracted by the sports and artistic side of the discipline, as well as the team and community spirit that go with it. Unfortunately, I had to stop for various health reasons. And although I've had to stop doing it, I still love this sport. I never stopped swimming, even going so far as to take it as an option for my A-levels. Today, I use my editorial skills to continue to keep my love alive through writing. I write articles with the aim of sharing my passion for a great sport, that of synchronised swimming."