Why Is The Butterfly The Hardest Swimming Stroke?

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.

Swimming has four basic techniques, and then there is the doggy paddle. As far as why the butterfly is the hardest, it can be argued that it is because of the coordination and timing required to successfully perform the proper stroke technique.

If even one of the independent arms is out of sync, a swimmer will drift in their lanes, either veering left or right, depending on the arm.

Then you add on top of that, and swimmers are required to use a dolphin kick to help propel the body forward in coordination with the two arms.

Man doing butterfly strokes in a pool - why is it the hardest swimming stroke?

Is the Technique Hard?

For some, this is not difficult. But, for most, the butterfly swimming technique is going to be the final stroke to master to perfection.

Unfortunately, there will be a section of people with minimal level motor and coordination skills who will not even participate in athletics, reserving their talents for other aspects of human existence.

Then you even have professional athletes that avoid this stroke, preferring freestyle techniques or staying dry. In short, this is debatably the toughest stroke to learn and perfect because of the required athletic skill and body control levels.


Man doing butterfly strokes in a pool - why is it the hardest swimming stroke?


Do You Use Most of Your Muscles?

This stroke is a full-body technique that will engage just about every muscle, from the core to the upper and lower body.

Here is a quick list of all the muscles that will get a solid workout if you choose to work on this technique of swimming (from the top of the body to the bottom):


  • Shoulder (Deltoids)
  • Upper arm muscles (biceps and triceps)
  • Upper and middle back muscles (latissimus dorsi ‘lats’ and trapezius)
  • Chest muscles (pectorals ‘pecs’)
  • The core muscles (abdominal)
  • Hamstrings
  • Thigh muscles (quadriceps ‘quads’)
  • The buttock muscles (glutes)
  • Calf muscles (soleus and gastrocnemius)


How Long Do You Practice in Order to Perfect the Butterfly?

It can take a lifetime to perfect any action or activity, but this is not the case for everyone. If we take a moment to see who the last few champion-level swimmers of the butterfly are, we will see Phelps.

But more recently, Caeleb Dressel executed the perfect butterfly to gold medal in the butterfly in 2017, and 2019 and ultimately in Tokyo grabbing Olympic gold in the 100m butterfly.

This athlete’s dedication started when he was taught to swim at four years old, and then at the age of eight, he decided to commit to competitive swimming year-round.


How Long Can You do it?

The best part about swimming is that you can get into a pool at any age and get a few laps in. In addition, water has a natural buoyancy that relieves solder joints of the burden of gravity and weight, making it ideal for the elderly to utilize to stay active and in shape.

As far as being able to compete with the young bucks, there is going to be an Olympic cut-off in the thirties. But the thing about sports is that there will always be new talent and superstars that push the limits and break records.


Tips and Tricks for the Perfect Butterfly Technique

The first tip that might be the one that helps the most is to practice the arm portion of the techniques while not kicking or using a traditional kick.

This is not the butterfly or the breaststroke, but it will help build the muscles that will make learning the dolphin kick portion a whole heck of a lot easier.

Once you have gotten to a certain comfort and confidence level with this hybrid stroke, working in a dolphin kick, this can be once every few strokes until it becomes one lap at a time, then more. So the process is going to be gradual and take time.


Final Thoughts on Why is the Butterfly the Hardest Swimming Stroke

Be patient with yourself. It takes time to learn to swim and even longer to master the basic four swimming techniques to reach competitive levels.

However, when it comes to Olympic competitions, these athletes will start their journey in their childhood, practicing day and evening to build a body that can compete.

The dedication, discipline, and integrity that go into reaching the pinnacle of human sporting excellence are not easily won and only come from the athlete’s willingness to work for it.

For the casual swimmer, the butterfly and breaststroke are going to be lifelong techniques that can be utilized to stay healthy well into the older years of life.