The butterfly stroke is one of the fastest competitive swimming strokes. And though it is difficult to master, it is fun. After all, who doesn’t want to swim like a dolphin – intermittently flying above the water and plunging right back into the blue! Doing it regularly will make you fit, toned, increase your strength and endurance improve heart health, and decrease cholesterol. So, let me show you how to master the butterfly stroke with a video demonstration and six exercises. All you need to do is learn, practice, implement the right techniques, and be patient. Dive in!
Learning The Butterfly Stroke (With Video)
The butterfly stroke is also called “the fly” by swimmers. It is swum on the chest, with both the arms moving simultaneously to displace the water and the legs kicking to propel the body forward. This coordinated whole body movement will help you move faster than the freestyle stroke. So, how do you do it? Take a look at this video tutorial that breaks down each step and teaches you the correct technique to do the butterfly.
That’s intense, isn’t it? Well, here are the main points to keep in mind to do the butterfly correctly.
- Dolphin Kick
Yes, you need to kick your legs, mimicking a dolphin’s tail. Keep your knees and feet close and move them up and down. Also, you must practice doing a small and a big dolphin kick for each stroke. Do the small dolphin kick when you are pushing the water behind you, tracing a keyhole shape, and do the big dolphin kick when your arms are out of the water.
- Arm Movement
There are three phases to the arm movement – push, pull, and recovery.
Pull – Your hands should be shoulder-width apart. Extend them over your head, pull your hands toward your body, tracing a semicircle. Keep your elbows higher than the hands. Your palms must be facing outward.
Push – Just when your hands finish tracing the semicircle, push your palms backward along your sides and hips. The whole pull and push can be imagined as tracing a big keyhole with your arms.
Recovery – As your palms reach the thighs, sweep your arms out of the water and plunge them back into it.
- Body Movement
Along with your arms and legs, your body should also help you move forward. Move your body in a wave-like manner. When your chest rises, your hips should be low, and when your chest falls, they should move up.
During the recovery phase, as your arms start moving out of the water, your head goes up, chin is at water level, and you breathe. As your arms go back into the water, drop your head and tuck your chin above your chest. Practice breathing during every alternate stroke or even longer.
So, you see, breaking down the steps helps you understand the stroke better and will also improve your technique. Now, there is something else you can do to improve your butterfly stroke skills. What is it? Find out next.
Drills To Improve Your Butterfly Skills
- Streamline Dolphin Kick
Start with your arms placed above your head and locked. Use your core and abs to kick. Ensure you use equal pressure on the upbeat and downbeat of the kick. Hold a pull buoy between your knees. This will ensure that you do it correctly and your abs are exercised well. Try the same exercise sideways, just as you do in the dolphin kick. Keep kicking from your core and not the knees. Treat the arms, head, and shoulders as one entity.
- Arms Only
This is all about making the push-and-pull motion with your arms. You need a pull buoy for this stroke. Hold it between your thighs and practice push and pull strokes in a semicircle. Don’t try and kick; focus on the push and pull strokes and nothing else. Rest after every length and repeat this exercise until you complete four lengths.
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- Chest Press
Keep your hands by your side as you enter the water face down. Press your body, mainly your chest and head, inside the water so that your body starts feeling light. Act as if you have to press your lungs into the water. All you have to do is press and release. You don’t need anything for this exercise, not even fins. Once you learn the basics, extend your arms to the front. Slowly add more pressure to your stroke.
- Vertical Kick
The vertical kick is an extension of the position kick exercise. This is a more balanced butterfly stroke that many international swimmers use. To do it, cross your arms in front of your chest. Position your body vertically, keep your head above the water, and kick your legs together. Do this exercise for half a minute and then rest for half a minute. Once you perfect this exercise, bring your arms out of the water in such a manner that your elbows are bent and inside the water. You may also use weights to add more power and resistance to your exercise.
- One Arm Only
If you want to improve your arm strength, try the one arm exercise. Buy fins and a kickboard to do this exercise. Hold the kickboard with both the hands and keep it at arm’s length from your body. Your face should be down, facing the water. Let go of the right hand and continue holding the board with your left. Exhale while doing the push and pull. You can breathe only while you are pushing in the stroke.
- Four Kicks Per Arm Cycle
You need fins to do this exercise. Wear fins and practice four dolphin kicks under the waterline. Next, attempt one full stroke. The purpose of the first two kicks is to ensure the catch position. The third kick brings the arms in action, and the fourth kick is for underwater recovery. Keep kicking to ensure momentum.
You can keep breathing during the strokes. But make sure you don’t take high and deep breaths. For every stroke, pull your body forward in such a manner that your chin is low, and hips are high. Exhale. The same exercise can be done in a succession of five or six kicks and a single stroke to enhance its difficulty level.
These are the drills that will help improve your technique. But, how can you be fast? Take a look at the tips below.
How To Be Fast
- Warm up before swimming.
- Practice the drills mentioned above.
- Practice back stretches.
- Do core strengthening exercises.
- Practice kicking with fins in the water.
- Avoid making common mistakes.
If you are thinking, “what common mistakes?” well, here’s a list.
Avoid These Mistakes
- Look forward when you lift your head out of the water and not down.
- Kick small to avoid being exhausted too quickly.
- As you shift from the recovery to the pull phase, make sure your thumbs go into the water first.
- Do not breathe late.
- Position your body properly.
Identify where you are possibly going wrong and fix it. Also, take help of a swimmer or a coach to avoid injuring yourself. Swimming is a great exercise for the entire body, and the butterfly stroke gives it a competitive edge. So, go ahead and have fun toning your body while others sweat it out at the gym. Cheers!
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