Butterfly drills, by using my practices you can improve your technique

Butterfly drills/ introduction

Butterfly drills are very useful for improving your stroke, by practicing arms and leg separately it is possible to improve your technique, body position as well as your stamina. You need an understanding of the stroke and that flexibility, grace and power are required. You have to also dispel the thought of pushing and pulling like the other three strokes. Instead think of the movement of a dolphin moving through the water.

You will also discover that butterfly drills are mainly done without the use of hand floats or kick boards. Sometimes using a kick board to practice butterfly legs too long can cause lower back pain. The body also needs to be undulating whilst kicking the legs so the arms are usually sculling with your arms in front of you rather than holding a float.

Butterfly swimming is the less commonly used stroke out of the four swimming strokes and mainly used competitively rather than for pleasure . It is also the less taught stoke as well, it is the second fastest competitive sroke because it allows a long propulsive arm action as well as an undulating leg kick which allows good propulsion whilst your arms are recovering.

When swimming butterfly you need to remember the key points which are as follows:

Body position

You are in a prone position face down Undulating (dolphin action) Keep your shoulders level


Your legs are simultaneous the downbeat leg action is what provides you with the propulsion Your upbeat is recovery ready for the next downbeat Both upbeat and downbeat are initiated from your hips Your legs are straight at the start of your upbeat with a slight bend at the end of your upbeat Your legs will bend as well as straighten in the downbeat Lower legs accelerate in the downbeat Make sure that your toes are pointed and in toeing Overall your legs contribute about 30 percent of propulsion Buttrfly drills/ To learn or read in more detail about butterfly swimming click onto this link to see my page which will cover the techniques in more detail

Butterfly drills/ Arms, entry

Entry into the water thumb and first finger first with your elbow slightly bent Make sure your arms are in line with your shoulders

Arms catch

Is just below the surface of the water It is also outside your shoulder line

Arms, propulsion

you have four main hand sweeps which are out, down, in, up/out. The pitch of your hand will change to accommodate the sweeps Your elbow should remain high at the end of the downsweep Your arms make a shape of a key hole when under the water The arms of butterfly is similar to breastroke and front crawl to look at When you release the water when beginning the over arm recovery it is released past your thigh

Arms, recovery

Your elbow will be slightly bent on the exit with your little finger exiting first on your hand A low sweeping recovery Your elbow bend will increase ready for the entry

Breathing for butterfly

You can either slightly lift your head to breathe or turn your head to the side Breathing in will take place during the up/outsweep of your arms You should return your head to the water as your hands recover Explosive breathing is the most beneficial method of breathing

Butterfly co-ordination

You should kick two beats per arm cycle The first kick should take place as your hands enter the outsweep then the second as your hands are on the up/outsweep Another way to remember is to kick your arms into the water then kick your arms out Breathing can either take place every one or two arm cycles.

Body position

The first butterfly drill you can try a push and glide then undulate in a prone position with your arms out infront of you. A push and glide is what it suggests, you simply you hold the side of the pool and push off and glide without swimming full stroke until you run out of momentum.

Try to relax in the water as you are doing this drill, get a feel for the water and the undulation of the whole body. You should flow through the water. Try imagining that you are submerging under a floating log and emerging back up from under it again.

Butterfly drills/ leg action

The first leg action drill you could try is legs only sculling, this means doing the full leg action with your arms in front of you doing a sculling action.

This will encourage you to put an emphasis on your leg action whilst still allowing undulation of the rest of your body. Next try undulation at the bottom of the pool with your arms to your sides, like a dolphin you will kick your legs simultaneously.

Another variation of this drill is to do the same drill but then change position whilst underwater or do each one individually. So roll from front to back to the side whilst undulating.

These butterfly drills will help to develop your undulation by emphasizing the upward phase of the action.

This butterfly drill is performed on your back with your arms extended, then kick your butterfly legs undulating your body.

This butterfly drill encourages a vigorous extension of your knees, your feet will flip up to the surface of the water encouraging good hip movement.

The last butterfly drills is a simple single arm pull with the other arm extended in front of you whilst breathing to the side.

This drill improves your leg kick especially if you are mainly swimming with a major and minor kick. This is especially good for the minor kick. It also keeps the hips close to the surface and improves your entry technique.

Butterfly drills/ arms

To begin with try practicing your arms standing in the pool going over and over the technique until you feel it is perfect. Remembering the points that I went through in the introduction. Once you feel that the stroke is feeling good try arms whilst walking across the pool.

This will give you a feel for the water and performing the arms whilst being able to concentrate on what you are doing without added distraction of kicking your legs as well

Now try a push and glide adding one or two arm strokes as you go.

This will get you into the correct body position to begin with and get you into the mode of swimming butterfly arms without going all the way across the pool.

The next butterfly drill is quite fun and involves jumping and diving. You begin standing in the pool leaning slightly forward with your arms to your side but slightly back. With your knees bent you jump forward throwing your arms in front of you in a diving position. You dive underwater head first. Your arms will then head for the pool bottom and touch the bottom, your legs and feet then catch up with the momentum so you end up in crouching position on the pool bottom with your legs bent and arms straight touching the pool bottom similar to a leapfrog position. You then spring back to the surface arms outstretched to break the surface of the water. As you come back to the surface you dive back down to the bottom and repeat across the pool remembering to take a breath after each dive.

This butterfly drill gives you the feel of dolphin movements it is good for developing confidence and is very good for beginners and earlier practices.

Butterfly drills/ arms with pull buoys

Butterfly drills/ If you are not familiar with pull buoys then click onto this link to look at my page about swimming equipment which includes floats Put the pull buoy between your legs above the knees then holding your legs together swim concentrating on your butterfly arms without thinking about your legs. This is a very good drill to practice to prefect your arm stroke for butterfly or any other stroke.

This butterfly drill will help you to concentrate on your entry and pull, your head flows with the arms. It also improves your body position in the water.

The last butterfly drill is a pattern swim this involves three right pulls with the arms along with the normal butterfly leg kick then three left arm pulls and finally three full stroke pulls and then start again across the pool. When you are pulling with the one arm the opposite arm will be held straight in front of you gliding through the water.

This butterfly drill alleviates the initial fear of the stroke and helps to develop undulation.

Butterfly drills/ breathing

There are a few ways in which you can improve your breathing when practicing your butterfly. The first and most obvious is to simply stand in shoulder depth water and practice arm action with breathing to the front, also try this to the side to see which style of breathing works best for you. Then try the full stoke without the breathing then try full stroke with one breath then two and so on until you are breathing on every stroke.

Another variation is to try the breathing on every other stroke, this is simply experimenting with different types of breathing and finding out what works best for you. What works well for one swimmer does not necessarily work for another so keep trying different methods until you find your pattern of breathing.

Some advice for breathing and general butterfly, raise your chin so that so your windpipe is not too restricted. Most muscles used in the pull and recovery are attached to your ribcage Try to relax keeping your shoulders dropped to avoid breathlessness keeping your strokes rhythmical. Try not to over-extend to make yourself tire.

Over emphasize your undulation of your body beginning with your head and shoulders moving through to hips, knees as well as ankles. Think of your body moving through anchored arms. Thank you for reading my page about butterfly drills if you are interested in other aspects of swimming then why not have a look at my other pages on my site

Thanks again Dale Dudley. Click here to return to home page