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by Abbie Fish

April 3, 2018

Learn how to properly swim what may be the most difficult stroke

For many swimmers, butterfly is the hardest stroke to perform, as it requires more muscles firing at any one time. This means swimmers must be very strong in multiple areas of their body to perform an efficient and smooth butterfly.

To best break down this difficult stroke and be on the way to a smoother butterfly, we took apart the stroke and narrowed it down to three main technical points. Any error regarding one of these points dramatically impacts a swimmer’s timing, endurance, and overall comfort.

Body Position Through the Undulation

Because butterfly is such an exhausting stroke, it’s important swimmers have great body position through their undulation. What this means is that swimmers keep their spine (from the top of the head to their hips) in a straight line during all aspects of the stroke. It’s important that a swimmer focuses on this because there is so much movement within the body during the stroke cycles. Without proper body position, swimmers’ pulls will be less powerful and/or the timing of their breath will be out of sync.

Kick Timing

Two kicks per stroke is imperative for butterfly. The first down-kick should begin as a swimmer’s hands enter the water at the end of the recovery, and the second down-kick should begin as a swimmer’s hands are about halfway through the pull.

Without proper kick timing, swimmers will have a hard time getting their arms through the recovery portion of the stroke, and it will be almost impossible to maintain a proper body position.

Kick Finish

Every time swimmers finish the down-kick portion of their dolphin kick, their feet should end up in front of their body (or closer to the bottom of the pool). Without finishing the kick in front of their body, swimmers will not be utilizing the full capacity of their quads and the power they created from engaging their abdominals. Focusing on following through the kick—like kicking a soccer ball—helps swimmers finish their kicks in front of their body as opposed to in line with it.

Watch the author discuss these three key technical points in this video analysis.


  • Technique and Training


  • Butterfly
  • Stroke Technique