All elite butterfliers have one thing in common: a great second kick. Although there may be subtle differences in other areas of the stroke, the ability to generate power through this movement is present in every example of great Fly. In reality, many great 200 butterfliers are born with this ability (Mr. Mel Stewart is a great example) but there are a number of drills that you can teach to improve upon this motion.
The first example is the Porpoise Drill. It is named after the porpoise due to the swimmer’s body position as they kick down the pool. Have the swimmer push off on his/her stomach, arms at their sides. Using small fast kicks from the knee down, the athlete should be able to hold their head, neck, and shoulders out of the water for the entire length. The upward angle of the body as the swimmer moves down the pool should mimic a dolphin skimming across the surface. This drill is extremely intense and is also great as a core stabilization exercise. If your swimmers cannot complete an entire 25 at first, try doing only a portion of a lap. Short blade fins, such as the Z2 Zoomers or Zoomers Gold, are also a great match for this drill. Traditional, long blade fins generally slow the kick rate down too much to complete this exercise effectively, so the Zoomers are preferred.
The second drill pertains more to the timing and depth of your dolphin kick. Again, instruct your swimmer to push off the wall with their hands at their sides, laying flat on their stomachs. Ask them to complete three large, exaggerated kicks followed by six smaller kicks that are fast. Continue this pattern for the entire length of the pool. You should use close to the same amount of time to complete the three larger kicks as you do for the six smaller ones. Next, observe what happens when you ask your swimmers to keep their feet underwater as they cycle through the different kick rates. The kicks should begin to resemble the second kick in the butterfly motion with a quick snap towards the bottom of the pool. It is recommended that you use the Swimmer’s Snorkel when you try this drill. Otherwise, lifting your head to breathe will disrupt the rhythm of the kicks and alter your body alignment. Wearing the Snorkel allows you to keep your head in a neutral and relaxed position throughout.
After a few repetitions, ask them to replicate this motion in their butterfly and observe the force added to each evolution of the stroke. Try implementing drills centered on the second kick into your workouts and give your swimmers the chance to feel the power that separates great fliers from mediocre ones.
I stole these from Coach Ben Loorz at CSU, East Bay (Hayward, CA). I’m not sure if he is the guy responsible for the drills or not, but his attention to this portion of the stroke has led to huge improvements in his swimmers this year. This is definitely credit where credit is due.