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How To Master the Butterfly Stroke

The Butterfly Stroke is a Whole Body Workout

The butterfly stroke 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 the head on top, while the body does what is called a 'body roll'- a rolling, undulating motion like a dolphin makes when swimming.

Image of two women doing the butterfly stroke in a swimming competition
Butterfly Swimming

Begin by practising 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.

Learning The Dolphin Kick

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 the 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.

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The Upper Body Motion

In the pool, use the upper body motion of the butterfly stroke 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 Keifer.com. Kiefer is the best in class provider of men’s competitive swimwear and women’s competitive swimwear.


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