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Building Better Fly

Out of all of the strokes, Butterfly is widely understood to be the most difficult and physically demanding to execute properly. At its best it can be one of the most impressive displays of swimming to be seen, and at its worst, we can sometimes find ourselves struggling to get our arms out of the water and filled with regret.

It is important to remember that as a short axis stroke (like Breaststroke), our power in Butterfly tends to be driven from the hips. There is a rhythm to Butterfly that is not the same in Freestyle or Backstroke. Your pull and your kick are fundamentally linked together as you swim, in Butterfly you cannot increase your stroke rate without also increasing the rate of your kick. Every one pull should have two separate dolphin kicks paired with it over the duration of your stroke cycle. Your kick works to help set up your stroke and help maintain your body position as you swim.

  • Your hands should not touch as they are entering the water. Hand entry should be shoulder width apart, anything further in becomes wasted effort that you have to undo before your pull can begin.

  • Make sure that when breathing, your head only comes far enough out of the water for your mouth to be above the surface. Anything more can quickly tire you out over the course of a race.

  • Maximize efficiency by ensuring that your pull is not ended early. Your triceps should be almost fully extended by the time your stroke enters the recovery phase.

  • The power from your dolphin kick comes from your hips, make sure your kick undulates through the entirety of your legs, and doesn’t simply begin at your knees.

  • Your core should be engaged while swimming Butterfly. This is the source of your stability in the water.

  • Your body should undulate throughout the stroke in a wave like motion.

  • Lead with your forehead not your chin.

  • Keep Your body as close to the surface of the water as you can. Sinking down into the water creates drag.

  • Fingertips not thumbs down when hands enter water.

  • Arms should be shoulder width apart on entry. Having arms at shoulder width is your most optimal power position in both Free and Fly.

  • Pull should be through the center of your body.

  • Hips and heels should be at the water line not under the water.

  • Dolphin Kick begins at the hips not the knees.

  • Keep your legs close together. Do not bow legs when taking a breath. Using a pull buoy at practice is a good way to stop that bad habit!

Butterfly Drills For Beginners

Many beginner swimmers are not physically strong enough to swim butterfly... not yet! They simply do not have the core strength or the ability to complete a synchronous over-water recover, which requires lifting both arms, the head, shoulders, and part of the chest out of the water. Try these drills to improve body position, coordination, strength, and core development.

Dolphin Dives

Swimmers dive down and then launch themselves to surface, diving back down and repeating it the length of the pool.

River-Stroke or Tarzan

Swimmers swim freestyle down the length of the pool with their heads out of the water looking straight down to the other end.

Armless Fly

Swim butterfly with arms by side. Focus on wave like body motion.

Fly Kick On Back

Again Focus on wave like motion. Keep Toes at water line.

One Arm- One Arm

No Arms Swimming down the lane take pull with left arm, then right arm, then arms by sides. Focus on exaggerated wave like body motion.

Fly On Back

Focus on rhythm of stroke and extension.


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