The perfect butterfly swimming stroke technique

How to master the tricky butterfly swim

Arguably the most strenuous of all the strokes, the butterfly stroke requires both arms to go over together powering the movement as well as a dolphin kick. However the stroke is about timing and rhythm.  

 
Butterfly stroke
 

Here Adam Walker gives you his tips on how to master the most difficult of swimming strokes:

Arms

  • The arms sweep forward in front of the body into extension shoulder width apart with hands and fingers facing forwards. On entry elbow is slightly bent and sent into extension under water. Elbows remain higher than forearm and arm.

  • Hands then drive outwards and then back inwards towards each other and back down your sides into bent elbows

  • Repeat the process sweeping arm back in front of the body. Try and stay as streamlined as possible holding form before doing another stroke and losing momentum.

Kicking

  • Legs kick together as arm enters the water, followed by another kick as the hands start to leave the water.

  • The two beat kick is powered from the hips with knees slightly bent. Keep ankles together and relaxed and kick downwards.

Breathing

  • Head is in a neutral position looking downwards in front arm extension.

  • As the arm sweeps outwards and back in towards your side to lift you naturally upwards along with your head, with the aim of just clearing your eyes and mouth above the water in order to inhale.

  • The inhale should be as natural as possible and not forced as your mouth clears the water.

  • Head will then lower back into the water before the arms in order to exhale again in a relaxed fashion naturally through your nose or mouth. The arms and hands follow into extension as you continue to breathe out. 

Turning

  • The objective is to touch the wall with both arms out into extension to maximise each stroke

  • You must touch the wall with both hands together, if you touch with one hand only, you would face disqualification in a race.

  • As you touch the wall, you will then take one hand off the wall and turn onto your side with knees pushed up towards your chest.

  • Push off the wall initially sideways with your feet and drive both arms forward into extension and back onto your front underwater.

  • I recommend two or three dolphin kicks under water before going back into the full stroke.

One Arm Fly Drill

The drill is used to help with the timing of the leg kick, rhythm and breathing. However it is easy to cheat and do one arm front crawl, so the drill must be performed correctly.

  • Push off the wall with both arms out extended, leave left arm out in-front. Right arm is pushed forward leading with the elbow until forearm over takes it entering with hands first and extended arm. The arm is not an overhead throw and stays close to the surface of the water throughout entering the width of your hips.

  • The butterfly kick is carried out once the hand enters the water and once when it leaves the water. The timing will come with practice. If you overkick or kick in the wrong place this will affect the rhythm and slow you down. If you struggle with this drill, I recommend you practice just the kick in isolation using a float or arms extended in-front until you master the timing.

  • Breathing is to the side, use the pull in order to turn your head and take the breath without losing momentum. If you complete the pull then breathe, this will again slow you down and affect your rhythm. You want to keep as low to the water as possible, if you lift your head too high, this will result in your legs dropping further and causing you to be inefficient.

Adam WalkerWritten by Adam Walker

Adam is a swim coach and motivational speaker who became the first British person to swim the hardest 7 ocean swims in the world. He teaches people swim stroke, psychology and all aspects in order to achieve their specific swimming goals.

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