How to Swim Butterfly Stroke

So, where do you start? Everyone knows the freestyle stroke, the backstroke and, to a lesser, extent, the breaststroke. The butterfly stands alone as the most challenging of the four major swim strokes—but we think you're up for it, so let's get started.

Body Position

This will vary greatly throughout your butterfly stroke. Your head should stay low and face down as consistently as possible, even when breathing, as the undulation of your body should raise your head out of water. Hips and shoulders should move in a dolphin like motion, as you flow forward.

The Pull

Your arms will initially reach out in front of you, taking care to enter the water at shoulder's width. The palms of your hands should face outward and sweep downward until they pull back towards the sides of your chest. When your hands reach this point, pull them out of the water, and windmill both arms at once back in front of you to re-enter and repeat your stroke.

The Kick

Two legs become one during the butterfly stroke. It's a flexible, undulating motion that starts in your hips and flows through your knees. Roll your legs down, and then snap your feet back up. Don't get carried away, however—think of the motion as a strong wiggle, rather than a lashing whip.


You'll be able to breathe naturally as the top of your head moves out of the water. Take care not to lift your head too far, but just enough to take a breath. Then re-enter the water face down. Your exhale should take place underwater so that you are not wasting time on a full inhale/exhale above.


Don't expect immediate perfection and don't be discouraged. The butterfly can take time to perfect, and mastery requires optimal synchronization of arm recovery and leg kick. Much like with any challenge, the more time you invest, the quicker you will develop.

Training, Swimming
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