How to Coach a Better Butterfly Kick

Lissa Latella headshot.jpgLissa Latella co-owns SwimBox swim studio with her husband, Dominic, and is a frequent contributor to the Endless Pools blog. In this post, she kicks off a series detailing training methods for different strokes. Her techniques include drills specifically created for the Endless Pools® swimming machine.

Being a competitive swimmer since the age of six, you’d think there'd be little I haven’t done when it comes to practicing technique. I ran across the bottom of a 14-foot-deep pool while holding weighted bricks, did SEAL training protocols to develop better breath control, and used pretty much every training tool on the market just to see which are worth the hype.

Sounds pretty all encompassing, right? Little did I know that the type of pool I was practicing in played a huge role in what I was able to accomplish. Enter my Performance Endless Pool complete with its swim current generator. This pool continues to surprise me by what it allows us to work on in terms of stroke technique. Keep reading, and I'll tell you why…

A butterfly stroke swim coach session in the Endless Pool at SwimBox swim studio
At SwimBox swim studio in Fairfax, Virginia, the coaches have a front-row view of every swimmer's every movement. Thanks to their Performance Endless Pool, which makes in-place swimming possible, bad technique has nowhere to hide. That means more fine-tuning for faster progress.

Nowhere to Hide

In the Endless Pool, you’re basically a sitting duck, and I mean that in the best way possible – bad technique has nowhere to hide. You’re not moving forward or backward or away from your coach while you’re swimming, so you can work on pieces of your stroke you otherwise wouldn’t be able to in your standard pool.

One thing that’s particularly difficult to see properly at a standard pool: The butterfly kick.

Simply put, giving instruction on butterfly kick can be quite difficult. But one of my favorite things about my Performance Endless Pool is that you get to work on things while you stay put, which means your coach has a steady, front-row view of your movements while you do them. The coach doesn't need to chase you up and down, back and forth, as at your standard pool, just to get a glimpse of your leg movement.

Swim coach Dominic Latella coaches butterfly stroke in the Endless Pool at SwimBox swim studio
An effective butterfly kick requires a propulsive forward movement that's in sync with the arms. It's a challenging stroke that's easier to improve in an Endless Pool. Here, coach Dominic Latella can see every detail of the swimmer's butterfly for more effective coaching and the best swim gains. 

Mastering the Butterfly Kick

So, what do you want to look for when working on your fly kick? You want the tops of your feet and shins to be pushing backward against the water in order to help propel you forward. Thinking of it like this will help you understand that butterfly is a forwardly progressive motion, as opposed to an up-and-down motion.

Focusing on the pushing-back motion encourages your legs to propel you forward as you swim, and it prevents you from looking like a pyramid, moving up and down from the surface to the bottom of the pool.

Even though you want your kick to move you forward, you have to keep in mind that your arms are the major propulsive force when it comes to butterfly. It’s easy to focus too much on your kick, and then all of a sudden, your kick is trying to be the major propulsive force – not good.

The movement of your legs should react to the movement of your arms. In fact, let’s think of your legs as counterbalances to your arms. When your arms are forward, your legs are up. As your arms exit the water, your legs are down. Both of these movements are needed to help the other and to create an efficient, technically proficient butterfly.

a butterfly kick swimming drill in the Performance Endless Pool at SwimBox in Fairfax, Virginia
In between rounds of butterfly against the Endless Pools swim current, try this Butterfly-Kick Drill. It uses the Endless Pools grab bar for support as you develop your upward kick and your leg position. The result should be a faster, more efficient swim. 

A Butterfly-Kick Drill

Since your kick is the supportive piece in this stroke, perfecting its technique is key to your other movements working properly and efficiently. A great way to work on this is by holding onto the grab bar in an Endless Pool and kicking without the current on. This will allow you to feel the resistance against the tops of your feet and shins as you kick downward and push back against the water.

Alternately, when you kick upward, you want the backs of your knees to try to lift up to the surface, and as they’re doing so, they will begin to straighten out in preparation for your next down-kick.

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