Butterfly Stroke Swimming Technique

Last Updated on August 1st, 2023

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The butterfly stroke is a graceful and powerful swimming technique that can take years of practice to master for those who have already started learning the butterfly stroke, refining their technique to even higher levels can be difficult.


What is the Best Butterfly Stroke?

The best butterfly stroke is the most efficient butterfly stroke. That being said, most swimmers and onlookers agree that United States Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps has the best butterfly stroke the world has ever seen.

Consistency is also key when swimming the butterfly stroke, something else that Phelps is also known for. 

Phelps opts to breathe every cycle of the butterfly stroke, something that competitive swimmers often disapprove of because breathing is often the slowest part of the stroke. 

Even so, Phelps’ consistently perfect form and breathing pattern allow him to outpace other competitors that may have faster starts.

The best part about Phelps’ butterfly stroke is that he was not a natural-born swimmer. However, he worked diligently and practiced his craft to the point that he was able to medal seven times in the 100 and 200-meter butterfly Olympic events. 

This means that anyone out there can do the same to learn and perfect their own butterfly stroke.


What is the Most Important Aspect of Your Butterfly Stroke Technique to Work on?

Consistent timing and rhythm are the single most important things when it comes to swimming the butterfly stroke. 

Without consistency in the timing of each component of the butterfly, you risk losing your streamlined profile, and the cycles between the arms and the legs can become desynchronized.

When the arms and legs no longer synergistically work together, the butterfly turns from a graceful and demanding swimming discipline into an embarrassing mess of limbs that make it look like you’re drowning.


How Do You Improve Your Overall Butterfly Stroke Swimming Technique?

The greatest thing you can do to improve your overall butterfly stroke swimming technique is to ensure you have the proper head and body positioning while in the water. This will make you more streamlined for efficient swimming that doesn’t tire you out so quickly.

If you feel that your positioning is adequate and you still have something to improve, consider working on your dolphin kicks. Swimmers most often struggle with this area when learning and improving their butterfly strokes.

The undulating motion of the dolphin kick comes primarily from the movement of the hips and allows the rest of the lower body and legs to naturally follow in a whip-like fashion. 

Without good dolphin kick form, you lose a lot of power to propel yourself forward in the water and may also struggle to balance yourself in the water.

One of the best things you can do to improve your dolphin kick is to work on your “up” kick, where your legs return to a higher position in the water during the recovery phase of the legs. 

The faster that your legs return to this position, the sooner you can perform another “down” kick which is usually the more powerful aspect of the dolphin kick.

While you are thinking about your dolphin kick, think about the power you put behind it and how that affects your body shape. 

A large kick amplitude (the distance your legs move up and down from a flat position in the water) is not necessarily better than a smaller kick amplitude. 

If you are going out of your way to have a large kick amplitude like Michael Phelps’, you may be ruining the rest of your body’s streamlined position.

There is no right or wrong amount of kick amplitude when it comes to swimming the butterfly stroke, but it is very important not to hyperextend the knees as you perform the dolphin kick movement. 

This can lead to devastating injuries that can take many weeks or even months to fully heal and may even require surgical attention.


What Flaw in Your Butterfly Stroke Technique Makes You Get Tired So Fast?

Breathing incorrectly will not only ruin your butterfly times but also make you exhausted much more quickly. If you do not formulate a planned pattern of breathing, then you will often try to only breathe after as many cycles as possible in the beginning. 

Unfortunately, this sets you up to fail because your muscles get fatigued early on by the buildup of lactic acid that breathing helps to remove.

Holding your breath while you are under the surface of the water is also not a good idea and can make you tired incredibly quickly. 

In addition, by holding your breath for extended periods of time while underwater, you can put a strain on the cardiovascular system of the body. Years of this strain can cause life-threatening conditions later in life.

Not only can you increase the risks of these frightening conditions in the future, but you also risk blackouts and drowning by holding your breath when you do become tired. Without the proper oxygen to your muscles and brain, you go unconscious. 

This can then lead to you filling your lungs with water as your body automatically tries to breathe for survival.

It is better to exhale through the nose constantly while your head is underwater. This already puts your body into a more natural state of breathing, like when you exercise outside of the water, which can help you establish efficient breathing patterns in the water.


Final Thoughts on Butterfly Stroke Swimming Technique

As you can see, even the world’s best butterfly swimmer had to work incredibly hard to get to where he is as the most decorated American Olympic athlete in history. We can also improve our butterfly strokes by watching and analyzing how Phelps swims.

When you fine-tune your streamlined position and timing, your confidence and butterfly stroke will improve to reward your dedication. Remember that breathing in and breathing out is key to a successful and consistent swimming stroke without fear of injury.