Step Up Your Butterfly Drills (Video)

Courtesy of Gary Hall Sr., 10-time World Record Holder, 3-time Olympian, 1976 Olympic Games US Flagbearer and The Race Club co-founder.

One of our favorite butterfly swim drill to practice is the left, right, front drill where the swimmer tries to keep the body more horizontal during the breath stroke to the front. For swimmers that are not adept at swimming butterfly and are more accustomed to swimming freestyle, this drill is a great way to get started on butterfly. The technique of using one arm at a time for two out of three swimming strokes makes it easier to perform butterfly and improve your chances of developing a technically more correct stroke. Butterfly is one of the most difficult swimming techniques to master. At The Race Club swim camps and in our private instruction, we like to work on several swim drills that make the butterfly easier to do. Developing a strong dolphin kick is an important part of swimming a fast butterfly, so we recommend doing this drill with fins on in order to strengthen the kick. When the swimmer’s kick gets stronger, the fins can come off for the drill.

Olympic champion Roland Schoeman shows us a beautiful example of this butterfly swim drill. By elevating and extending the neck forward, Roland is able to keep his shoulders closer to the water and minimize frontal drag. For some swimmers that are challenged with keeping their shoulders lower on the water, Roland also demonstrates a similar butterfly swim drill using a side breath. Using the side breath can help keep the body flatter and enable the swimmer to get the breath in more quickly. Side breathing takes quite a bit of practice to perfect, so don’t be discouraged when you first try it. An important part of side breathing correctly is keeping the swimmer’s ear flat on the water during the side breath. Also, the side breath should be slightly backward toward the rear to avoid taking in water or choking.

Hopefully, with this butterfly swim drill, you can develop a more efficient and faster butterfly technique, whether you choose to breathe to the side or to the front.

Gary Hall, Sr., Technical Director and Head Coach of The Race Club (courtesy of TRC)

Gary Hall, Sr., Technical Director and Head Coach of The Race Club (courtesy of TRC)

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Because Life is Worth Swimming, our mission is to promote swimming through sport, lifelong enjoyment, and good health benefits. Our objective is for each member of and each participant in The Race Club to improve his or her swimming performances, health, and self-esteem through our educational programs, services and creativity. We strive to help each member of The Race Club overcome challenges and reach his or her individual life goals.

The Race Club, logoThe Race Club provides facilities, coaching, training, technical instruction, video, fitness and health programs for swimmers of all ages and abilities. Race Club swim camps are designed and tailored to satisfy each swimmer’s needs, whether one is trying to reach the Olympic Games or simply improve one’s fitness. Our programs are suitable for beginner swimmers, pleasure swimmers, fitness swimmers, USA swimming or YMCA swimmers, or triathletes; anyone who wants to improve swimming skills. All of our Race Club members share an enjoyment of being in the water and use swimming to stimulate a more active mind and body.

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3 Comments on "Step Up Your Butterfly Drills (Video)"

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Steve-O Nolan

What’s utility of having such a high arm recovery on the single arm strokes?

Gary Hall Sr.

Good question. Unlike freestyle, where a high arm recovery signifies more body rotation which provides more coupling energy, the coupling energy in fly comes from the speed and length of the arms recovering, plus the speed of the head dropping down (coupling with the second down kick). One can get just as much coupling energy if the arms are one inch or 10 inches above the water on the recovery in fly…so long as they are above the water. Roland is so accustomed to using a high freestyle recovery that he does the same on this drill. Using a high recovery on the single arm motions is not an important part of the drill and should not be emphasized.

Steve-O Nolan

Got it! I always emphasize keeping arms low on single-arm fly drills, if only because my kids tend to bend their arm like a freestyle recovery if they’re not thinking about keeping their arm low and straight.

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About Gold Medal Mel Stewart

Gold Medal Mel Stewart

MEL STEWART Jr., aka Gold Medal Mel, won three Olympic medals at the 1992 Olympic Games. Mel's best event was the 200 butterfly. He is a former World, American, and NCAA Record holder in the 200 butterfly. As a writer/producer and sports columnist, Mel has contributed to Yahoo Sports, Universal Sports, …

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