Butterfly is undoubtedly one of the hardest strokes to learn in swimming. The amount of strength exerted with every repetition is intimidating to even many fans of the sport, let alone to the swimmers who compete in it. Although there is a considerable degree of difficulty associated with swimming good Fly, the poor technique we see too often can also be attributed to incorrect coaching methods. It is common that coaches will try to “run before they walk” with Butterfly, asking their young swimmers to complete many repetitions without having the proper technical tools to succeed.
When taking a quick look at the Butterfly stroke, one could determine that the hallmark of great swimmers is a low body position during the recovery phase, with the chin almost skimming across the surface as they move forward. The ability to loosen the upper body and to give the illusion of “relaxation” during Fly is only possible due to a great amount of core stability and propulsion under the water. It is critical to develop the techniques under the water before refining the ones that happen above the surface.
The Butterfly tempo and stroke are dictated by the rate and position of the body in the water, not by the arms. A great way to test this is to try to complete a butterfly spin drill, moving the arms as quickly as possible. You will quickly become out of sync because the body will be out of position for that phase of the stroke. On the other hand, building the stroke tempo by decreasing the amount of time in between kicks will automatically force you to increase the rate of your arms. Butterfly is a short-axis stroke, and therefore, is completely dependent on the movement of the torso.
To hone in on the stabilizing and propulsive muscle groups, it is often a good idea to add a larger driving surface to the dolphin motion. The Foil Monofin works well for this because the large single blade adds resistance evenly to both sides of the kick. The lower back and abdominal muscles will be engaged as you change directions, and exponentially so as you reach high speeds underwater. The large muscle groups in the legs are also fired to drive the fin up and down. Creating muscle memory and endurance throughout the entire Butterfly motion will help train the signature “easy” Fly recovery above the water that we expect from elite athletes. As previously mentioned, kick rate and body position are the forces that drive the best Flyers forward and make it possible to relax the shoulders and to fully extend along the surface of the water.
So, how are you teaching Butterfly? Are you giving your swimmers the tools to develop the most efficient stroke possible? It’s never too late to start training the right way, with the FINIS Foil Monofin.