Out of all the competitive swimming strokes, butterfly can seem impossible to learn at first glance. Swimmers like Michael Phelps and Matt Grevers weren’t born with the ability to swim perfect butterfly. Just like everyone else, they had to learn. Here’s a full explanation on butterfly to aid you in mastering this challenging, yet rewarding stroke.
In order to swim butterfly, you’ll need to develop your rhythm and coordination. Butterfly is much different from the other 3 strokes, it’s much more reliant on momentum and stroke rhythm. The best butterfly swimmers in the world utilize a powerful and consistent dolphin kick paired with a strong pull that propels them forward through the water.
The key to a good butterfly is relaxing, and using your whole body in a smooth, flowing motion.
Let’s break it down piece by piece.
You’ll start grabbing water with your hands out in front of you in a streamline position, a bit wider than shoulder width apart. Pull straight down using your forearm and hand to catch the water. As you pull down, your hands will naturally move in closer to your body. At the end of your pull, your hands should be under your belly button, from here you’ll pull through and out of the water, sweeping your arms above the surface to land in the starting position, repeating the cycle.
Contrary to strokes like freestyle or backstroke, you’ll want to use a dolphin kick for butterfly. Kicking with both feet together at once. This allows you to generate more force for propulsion and helps you build momentum. Always remember, perform two dolphin kicks for every pull. Timing the kicks in relation to the pull will take some practice, but eventually it’ll click.
Incorporating your breath into the stroke can be tricky, just remember it’s a matter of timing and practice. Common mistakes with the breath in butterfly are lifting the head too high, causing the hips to drop. Or not taking the breath at the optimal time. The breath comes in as soon as your arms enter the water in front of you and begin pulling. Use the momentum from pulling to launch yourself forward and snag a breath. It’s important not to raise your head too high, this will drop your hips and greatly reduces efficiency.
It’s important to understand that butterfly is the most difficult to learn out of the 4 strokes. Consistent training and practice are the best ways to achieve mastery, it likely won't happen overnight.
Take it one step at a time, and always remember to allow time for recovery between training sessions.