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by Bo Hickey

June 27, 2022

Here’s how to maximize the physical qualities needed to swim butterfly

Swimming butterfly requires power, rhythm, and body position. If you're missing one of these ingredients, this stroke can become an immense challenge.

Here’s a dryland routine that can help you improve the physical qualities needed to swim the stroke.


Warming up before a workout is important because it prepares your body for the stress you’re about to put on it. (In fact, I recommend doing a dryland warm-up to prepare your body before you do a swimming warm-up at workout or a meet.)

Because we’re focusing on butterfly in this article, let's make sure your shoulders, hips, and hamstrings are primed for high-quality movement.

Complete three rounds of each exercise. Take minimal rest between exercises and rounds.

Body Position

Now that you’ve started to awaken your body, take time to work on your spine health and your catch position. If your work life has you in a seated position for a majority of the day, your mid-back can lose range of motion. Then when you head to practice and try to reach overhead, your lower back compensates for the lack of mid-back movement and hello, lower back pain!

The cat/cow is a great way to slow things down and work on establishing the range of motion through your mid-back. Then the active hang helps you hardwire a good catch position. Avoid letting your shoulders cover your ears during the hang. Bring your feet slightly in front of your torso to help you get a little more anterior core engagement out of the hang as well.

Complete three rounds of each exercise. Rest 30 seconds between each movement.

Dolphin Kick Drive

These exercises can help you with the rhythm of your dolphin kick and to maximize your body position in the water. The kettlebell swing has a similar hip-drive compared to your dolphin kick. Focus on driving this movement with your hips. Your arms are just there to hold on to the weight. The second movement in this section is the single-arm balance plank. During the first round, start by holding a single-arm plank on the ground without a ball. If you are able to hold for 30 seconds on each side, add a ball into the mix for a greater shoulder stability challenge. You can use a medicine ball, basketball, or even a BOSU ball for this exercise.

Complete three rounds of each exercise. Rest 60 seconds between each movement.

Swimming Strength

Finish the strength portion of this dryland workout with a focus on pulling strength, lower body strength, and core stability. These three focuses are critical to helping you maintain an efficient body position during butterfly. Focus on not rushing these movements. The goal is to take things at a steady pace and execute quality form.

Complete three rounds of each exercise. Rest 30 seconds between each exercise and round.


Finally, finish out with a few cool-down exercises to kickstart your body's recovery process. The goal during this section is to breathe nice and easy, and allow your heart rate to come down toward a resting state. You put in an excellent body of work today!

Think of your cool-down as the reward for a job well done. As you hold these exercises, focus on allowing your breath to flow freely. Don’t tense your breath during stretches—this causes more tension in your body as a whole. Focus on free-breathing for free movement.

Complete two rounds of each exercise. Take minimal rest between exercises and rounds.


  • Technique and Training


  • Butterfly
  • Drylands