Who said butterfly is just for kids? Why can’t Masters and fitness swimmers experience the exhilaration and feeling of freedom of the fly (short for butterfly) in their workouts? Why shouldn’t we add variety, challenge and extra conditioning benefits to our swim routines?
It’s true that many adult swimmers are intimidated by the butterfly. For most people, fly is the most challenging of all the strokes. Upper body and back strength are necessary, and both flexibility and good stroke coordination are vital. But most fitness and Masters swimmers have the ability to learn to swim butterfly. Don’t be shy about the fly. Begin training with water exercise drills to add strength and develop stroke technique and coordination.
Butterfly is done in a prone (face down) streamlined body position.
Your arms pull simultaneously in a symmetrical double “S-shaped” pull, also sometimes known as the “keyhole” arm stroke. It traces a path similar to the crawl S-shaped pull but without a body roll. First pull your arms outward and downward; then continue extending your arms down to your thighs. Your arm recovery is out of the water. The power of your arm motion accounts for most of the forward propulsion (approximately 70 percent).
Use the dolphin kick, which is similar to a flutter kick with your feet remaining together. Let your body undulate as you kick. Overall, the kick accounts for about 30 percent of the power of the butterfly stroke.
Breathing and Coordination
Lift your head out of the water to inhale as your arms complete the pull. Then return your head into the water and exhale through both your nose and mouth, forming bubbles underwater continuously. See also this article about Suzanne Heim-Bowen
Double Arm Circles
Stand, then walk in chest-deep water, while practicing simultaneous arm circles with the S-shaped pattern. Feel for the “still” water as you pull; brush your thumbs past your thighs before recovering with your arms out of the water.
Stand with your back against the pool wall. Extend your arms to the sides and hold onto the edge. Place your feet on the wall, with your back slightly arched. As you push off from the wall with your legs, lunge forward by recovering your arms over the water with the butterfly arm pull.
Dolphin Kick with Fins
Sit on the pool edge, with your knees bent. Drop your heels to touch the wall, then simultaneously straighten your knees and lift your legs to the water’s surface, toes pointed.
Stand in chest-deep water with your arms forward on the water’s surface. As your arms circle downward into the water, bend your knees. As your arms brush by your thighs and recover out of the water, straighten your legs. This simulates the coordination of the butterfly arms and leg motion with a single beat kick.
In deep water, wearing fins, grasp the pool’s edge with one arm, keeping your body in a vertical position. With your legs together, press your hips alternately forward and backward, keeping your knees relaxed and allowing your hips and legs to move in a dolphin-like movement. The fins accentuate the rhythm of the body wave that distinguishes “good” butterfly. Try a monofin to concentrate on simultaneous movement; it also provides extra water resistance for strengthening.