Monday, June 11, 2012

How-To Master the Butterfly Stroke

The butterfly is a whole body workout, and even those not interested in competitive swimming
can utilize this stroke for exercise or simply the sheer joy of its exuberant charge. The butterfly
stroke involves not only the upper half of the body but the lower half, using the dolphin kick
for the feet and the classic butterfly motion of arms over head on top, while the body does
what is called a 'body roll'- a rolling, undulating motion like a dolphin makes when swimming.

Begin by practicing the body roll. Float in the water, hanging on to the side of the pool if
necessary, and beginning at your chin, undulate your body down into the water chest
to stomach; your hips will naturally pop upward as you move. This is a quick movement
when done during the butterfly stroke and happens very naturally once you are comfortable
with the motion on its own, so be sure you have this down before expecting to master the butterfly.

In learning the dolphin kick, hang on to the side of the pool wall and level your body with
the water. Bring your legs together straight and then bend at the knees, keeping your feet
together and then making an up and down movement through the water from knee down.
Your feet must be pointed straight outward for maximum power in the water. After you feel
comfortable with this simple motion, practice the dolphin kick while swimming. Work on
using strong but shallow kicks- too much splashing slows a swimmer down and makes the
overall technique less graceful.

When learning the upper body motion of the butterfly, begin with a few practice rotations on land
so you can get a clear idea of what the motion feels and looks like before adding splashing
water. Using a windmill motion, pull both of your arms simultaneously back and around, circling
over your head, fingers upward and palms facing out. As your arms come forward, turn them
facing down until you reach your side and begin upward, when the palms face out again. Your hips
should move downward as your arms pull through the water, and pop upward during your body
roll as your arms move over your head.

In the pool, use the upper body motion of the butterfly until you feel comfortable with it, and
then add the dolphin kick. Ideally you will be using two dolphin kicks for every one windmill
motion, one as your arms come out of the water and one as they reach your sides. If this
synchronized motion is difficult for you, don't be discouraged. Your body will retain the memory
of these motions together if you practice, and you will be able to perform the butterfly with more
grace. The most important part of mastering the butterfly is repetition through practice. Take it
slow and repeat, repeat, repeat.

Breathing is an important element in all exercise- in the butterfly, you only have a second to breathe,
when your head lifts momentarily out of the water. Working the quick and deep breath in with
every head rise, as the arms lift and the feet kick, is essential to mastering the butterfly.

About the Author: Steven Hamilton often contributes on behalf of Kiefer is the best in class
provider of men’s competitive swimwear and women’s competitive swimwear.

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