Butterfly is Coach Scott’s favorite stroke! Here are some tips to keep in mind when you’re swimming butterfly:

  • ARMS: Butterfly arms are not the same as freestyle arms. Elbows should not be bent and arms should be “thrown” ahead of you rather than placed as in freestyle. This helps you maintain the up-and-down dolphin motion. Keep arms symmetric throughout the pull.
  • KICK: Point your toes. Kick from the chest down, and imagine that you are kicking the bottom of the pool. Both legs should move together (like a dolphin’s tail). There should be two kicks per arm stroke.
  • BREATHING: This is the hardest part of butterfly! Breathe only every other stroke (or less) to maintain a streamlined body position. Try not to raise your head up too high to breathe. After your breath, duck your head back in quickly before your arms enter the water.
  • TIMING IS EVERYTHING: For a smooth, powerful butterfly stroke, your hips should go up as your hands go in.
Swimmer doing butterfly stroke

Official Rules for Butterfly

  • Both arms must move simultaneously throughout the pulling motion.
  • Arms must be out of the water as they are brought forward to start the next pull.
  • All up-and-down movements of the legs must be simultaneous.
  • Flutter kicks, scissor kicks, and breaststroke kicks are not permitted.
  • Must touch with two hands at the same time.

Butterfly Drills

One-Arm Butterfly
  • Description: Swim butterfly with only one arm while the other arm remains stretched out in front.
  • Purpose: This drill helps you focus on a clean, straight-arm recovery and proper timing and rhythm without the added difficulty of lifting both arms out of the water.
  • Description: Building on One-Arm Butterfly (above), repeat the following pattern:  Two strokes with the right arm only, then two strokes with the left arm only, and then two strokes with both arms.
  • Purpose:  This drill is used to focus on the straight arm recovery for butterfly and the application of that technique to the full stroke.
Rollercoaster Butterfly
  • Description: Launch from the bottom of the pool, taking an arm stroke when you break out of the water, and then diving back down to repeat.
  • Purpose: This drill works on the timing and rhythm of butterfly, allowing you to focus on a single good stroke at a time.
4 Kicks and 2 Strokes
  • Description: Do four dolphin kicks underwater and then burst through the surface for two strokes.  Emphasize getting your arms up and over for the first stroke and then focus on diving down after the completion of the second stroke.
  • Purpose: This drill emphasizes the undulating motion of butterfly, both during the dolphin kicks and during the surfacing/diving phase of the drill.