How To Swim Butterfly Stroke Faster

Last Updated on August 1st, 2023

We may earn commissions for purchases made through links on our site. Learn more on our about us page.

When done right, the butterfly stroke is a graceful show of speed that covers 50 or even 100 meters of the pool quicker than most people realize. But how fast is the butterfly really, and what can you do to improve your times in this elaborate stroke?

Thankfully, you aren’t alone when it comes to trying to learn the butterfly stroke. Even many professional swimmers with years of practice under their belt struggle to get this stroke right. 

This is good news, as it means there are a lot of tricks and tips out there. Keep reading to learn how to get faster and tips to improve. 


How can You Improve Butterfly Stroke Speed?

Plenty of things can be done to increase the speed of one’s butterfly stroke, especially when starting out.

If you are truly looking to improve your times in the butterfly, you need to be honest with yourself when analyzing your stroke to identify areas of weakness so that you can correct any flaws you may have.

Having a coach to help you identify these areas for improvement is beneficial, but a friend with a waterproof camera can also record your swimming. You can review the footage and think critically about what needs work or where you are successful.

Once you have identified a set of issues that need correction, research swimming drills that isolate the movement or technique that needs improvement.

Methodically and consciously practice these drills to correct bad habits and the muscle memory that you had previously formed before attempting to recreate the improved form in some laps of the full butterfly stroke.


5 Tips for Improving Butterfly Stroke Speed

Body position

Body position, especially for the head, is important when it comes to swimming the butterfly stroke. 

Staying close to the surface of the water, keeping your head pointed downwards in the water, and minimizing the up-down motion of the dolphin kick all go towards reducing the drag that acts against your body’s forward movements.



Having an established breathing pattern as well as breathing at the right time means that you can have enough oxygen to not tire yourself out quickly while also having the fewest slow phases of a butterfly stroke cycle. 

Breathing in the right place and at the right time of the cycle will mean that you don’t inhale any unwanted water and that your head doesn’t strain to a position that compromises your streamlined position.


Dolphin kick

Everyone should know that the dolphin kick comes from the hip, and the rest of the lower body follows the up-down motion generated from there. 

Many people neglect that there should be two kicks per cycle of the arms: one kick to boost the arms up and out of the water and the second to drive the hands forward as they re-enter the water. 

Many unconsciously favor the downstroke of the dolphin kick while ignoring the upstroke, which can add additional propulsion to your butterfly stroke. It can also improve the positioning of the body for more powerful subsequent downstrokes.


Consistent pacing

Pacing is essential in mastering the butterfly stroke. It keeps the stroke smooth and easy to perform by reducing drag and making sure that all movements are completed in tandem as they should. 

Otherwise, you may find your kick is negating the effects of your arm movements, and you are actually wasting energy rather than creating propulsion. 


Training and practice

 Improving your butterfly stroke takes extended periods of time and effort. 

The saying that “practice makes perfect” applies here, but you should be careful to practice things correctly the first time so that you don’t have to undo weeks or even months of bad practice down the line.


Why Does Your Butterfly Stroke Seems Slower?

If you feel that you are swimming as hard as you can, only to realize your stroke is slow, you are probably not swimming as efficiently as you can.

This can be due to improper timing, drag due to your body being in the wrong position, or even a lack of strength because your muscles aren’t developed enough to perform the movement correctly. 

If you are struggling to determine what is wrong with your stroke, it is important to watch a recording of your swim. This can help you to identify areas where you are lacking. 

If you are struggling to identify the areas you aren’t doing well in, try to compare your swim to a professional and see where your movements differ. 


Is Butterfly Stroke the Fastest Way to Swim?

World-class swimmers like Michael Phelps make the butterfly stroke look effortless and fast, but it is not the fastest competitive swimming stroke. 

Instead, the fastest competitive swimming stroke title goes to the front crawl, sometimes interchangeably known as the freestyle stroke.

However, The butterfly is the most exhausting stroke of the four standard swimming strokes and is considered the second-fastest stroke. Nevertheless, it is still well worth learning for its excellent workout, if nothing else.


Final Thoughts on How To Swim Butterfly Stroke Faster

If you feel that your butterfly stroke is not up to the standard it should be, take some time to identify where you may need to improve. It is unlikely that your whole technique needs refining, and there is no point in wasting time figuring out what needs work by trial and error.

In fact, by trying to change up every part of your stroke, you may even end up ruining the parts you have right. So instead, keep practicing your drills and take the time to watch your swims to figure out where you are lacking. 

Remember, it could be even the smallest things, such as sinking too low during a swim or pulling yourself up too high to breathe.