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Butterfly Swimming Technique

Thoughts on Basic Swimming Technique


What is your mental picture of a butterfly swimmer? This is the result of a quick mental exercise, trying to describe different elements of butterfly swimming technique.
  • Head - Varies slightly, but primarily in-line with spine
  • Eyes - Looking at bottom of pool when not breathing, looking down and forward when breathing
  • Shoulders and chest - Tip up and down/forward about a line drawn from one hip through the other. The chest lays forward and presses down as the hands enter
  • Arms - Arms are a mirror of each other. Arm speed controls rhythm, with generally steady to decreasing/slowing rhythm through the course of a race unless well-conditioned
  • Forearm and hand pull - Arms remain shoulder width apart, flex at elbows with line from fingertips through elbow moving towards pointing down an slightly inward, then sweep inwards to outwards they press on the water, with the fingertip through elbow line moving from pointing inwards and down to slightly outwards and down
  • Forearm and hand recovery - Straight arms, relaxed hands, with a wide and low arm swing, thumb down, pinky up, back of the hand towards thumb lead
  • Forearm and hand entry - Straight arms, extended, thumb to fingertip first, shoulder width apart
  • Trunk - Must maintain the connection between the shoulders and the hips
  • Hips - Maintain hips relatively high in the water, acting as moving-forward pivot point
  • Legs - Generally two kicks per cycle, but one per cycle is also acceptable. Kick timing is based on arm timing, with kick balancing arm and trunk motion. There is generally a kick as the pull begins and a second kick just prior to hand exit. The kick action and the chest position must work together or swimmer will be moving body up and down instead of forward. If swimmer attempts to kick with too much effort they will tend to tire sooner than if they allow the kick to work with the arms and body
  • Feet - Feet must remain in the same plane through the entire kick. They may be in slightly different planes, but that difference must not change. Feet are extended, relaxed ankle on the down-beat, flexed on the upbeat. Kick amplitude should not be exaggerated
  • Breathing - Keeping body as low and flat/forward as possible, head tips up enough for face top clear water, inhale, head lays down prior to arm-recovery reaching a "T" from the shoulders out to the fingertips

Swim On!

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