Butterfly has a reputation for being the hardest swimming stroke. No doubt it requires good technique, but there’s no reason why it can’t be learnt by all ability levels. It’s often overlooked as many people favour the other 3 more common strokes; backstroke, breaststroke and front crawl.
The benefits of swimming butterfly are huge, the focus comes from the hips and involves all the core muscles to generate an undulating action from the whole body (like a dolphin) The stroke is explosive in nature and requires powerful acceleration of the arms which builds strong shoulders and back muscles.
Just like the other 3 strokes, a certain level of timing and control is involved but once the basics are in place the stroke can flow effortlessly and feel awesome.
When learning butterfly, we can break the stroke down into 3 basic parts.
1. The Recovery
The arms ‘fly’ over the top of the water. Notice how the arms are straight and relaxed with the thumbs pointing towards the surface.
2. The Pull
The underwater propulsive phase of the arm action. Hands catch the water at the front and pull right through past the hips to full extension (as if your hands are down deep in your pockets)
3. The Kick
The dolphin like action initiated from the hips with a ‘whip’ like action from the feet/off the toes.
Once each part has been practiced, it’s a case of putting all the pieces together and focusing on the timing of the stroke. Here’s a cool video which shows correct timing and technique for swimming butterfly
Butterfly can be for everybody, not just professional swimmers. Learning the four different swimming strokes gives a great all-round workout, as different muscle groups are involved for each stroke. Mixing it up between different swimming strokes adds variety and keeps things interesting.