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Drills / Stroke Technique

New to Butterfly? Focus on the Second Kick

Becoming a strong flyer requires a focus on rhythm

Heather Howland , Coach | July 1, 2013

Butterfly is all about rhythm and good technique. Many swimmers struggle with developing and timing a strong second kick, which is important for a faster and more efficient butterfly.

One drill to help develop a second kick starts with simply floating on your stomach, your elbows bent at 90 degrees. From this floating position, complete a single dolphin kick and finish the fly arm stroke. Using a snorkel is helpful with this drill. You can watch a video of this drill online.

When doing this drill, your hips begin to press down and forward as you press your palms and forearms back (as if finishing the final segment of the underwater pull in fly). Your feet drift up near the surface to prep for the downbeat of the kick, which occurs as your hands push through and finish outside your hips with your palms open toward the sky. Sneak your arms up under your body and return to the starting position—face down in the water—with a clean, horizontal line in the water (eyes down) and elbows bent at 90 degrees, ready to start the next pull sequence. It’s important to minimize the knee bend in your kick and instead, use your torso to press forward and down in the water to initiate the mild undulation; doing so will push you forward rather than up and down in the water.

Keep practicing. Once you’ve got the hang of it and feel coordinated enough to try swimming fly, start by taking a single stroke of fly off the wall and then swimming the rest of the lap freestyle. Then make it two strokes of fly off the wall and the rest freestyle. Keep adding butterfly strokes to see how you are adapting. When your stroke breaks down, (and you’ll know when that happens because you’ll likely become tired and notice your hips and legs dragging low behind you), reduce the number of strokes or return to a focus on butterfly drills. Keep building up until you’re comfortable swimming the length of the pool butterfly.

Once you can get to the other end of the pool doing only butterfly, it’s time for some 25s. Swim 25s of fly and swim them strong. Focus on holding your stroke together and feeling the rhythm the entire 25. You can do them on any interval and you can alternate 25s of butterfly and freestyle. When you feel the stroke breaking down, revert to the drills and build up again.

With a little bit of consistent effort and a focus on form, you will soon improve your butterfly stroke and stamina.

USMS Wave Seperator

About the Author—Heather Howland

Heather Howland is currently the Illinois Masters Swimming Association Chair. She also serves on the Coaches Committee and the Recognition and Awards Committee for USMS. Heather began swimming Masters in 2004 and currently swims for the Naperville Waves under Head Coach Sue Welker, the 2006 USMS Coach of the Year.

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