Many swimmers regard butterfly as the toughest stroke to master. And while we can’t all swim it like Michael Phelps, there are several ways to tweak the stroke as you train to improve your butterfly technique.
Take a look at the following suggestions and consider adding them to your next training session.
Keep Your Stroke Cycle a Circle
Part of what makes the butterfly difficult is that it requires constant motion. There is no gliding, pausing, or resting in butterfly--you must always be in motion, completing full, circular cycles.
Once your hands enter the water as you finish your stroke, they must begin the next cycle immediately without any reach or pause. Butterfly is dependent upon a constant, consistent rhythm, and will suffer if you interrupt that cadence with pauses.
Recommended training accessory: Adult Racer Swim Goggles
Stay Flexible During Recovery
As you begin to fatigue, your body tends to seize up, shortening your stroke and interrupting the natural rhythm of the butterfly. Focus on keeping your shoulders, chest, and back flexible, even as you begin to tire.
Always Kick Twice Per Pull
Remembering to kick twice for each pull is essential in swimming a fast, effective butterfly. The double kick isn’t just for speed--it serves several functions in the stroke. The first kick assists in lifting the swimmer’s head out of the water, while the second kick drives the arms and hands out and forward, then back into the water for the catch. The full kick also helps to create propulsion through the water.
Recommended training accessory: Pull Buoy
Focus on Moving Forward, Not Up and Down
The nature of the butterfly stroke, particularly in the two kicks per pull, can sometimes lead swimmers to swim in an exaggerated wave motion. Swimmers just learning the stroke often focus too much on pulling their heads straight up and out of the water to breathe, then diving back down, creating a lot of wasted effort and an ineffective bobbing motion.
When pulling up too high out of the water, your hips can drop, forcing you to exaggerate your kick in order to lift them back up to the surface. That’s why you should keep your focus on swimming forward so you’re able to pull through the water.
Recommended training accessory: Seamless Silicone Swim Cap
Keep Your Body as Close to the Surface as Possible
This last tip ties in with focusing on moving forward, rather than bobbing up and down. As you lift your head to breathe, try to just skim the top of the water with your chin. The most effective butterfly stroke features a low profile, with hips staying near the surface of the water, which helps to propel you forward since there’s less up-and-down movement.
If you watch accomplished butterflyers (like Michael Phelps), you’ll notice they only lift their head out of the water as much as what is needed to take a quick breath, no higher. This saves helps save energy as well.
While difficult, the butterfly can be a beautiful and rhythmic stroke when swam properly. Apply these five tips as you train to greatly improve your butterfly, and swim the stroke with ease!