The butterfly stroke is named after the graceful motion of a butterfly’s wings. It is one of the fastest swim strokes, and is also considered to be one of the most difficult. However, with practice and perseverance, you can perform the butterfly stroke with confidence and efficiency.
Before beginning, it is preferable to consult your physician and be in good physical condition. It is also a good idea to have some familiarity with the other basic swimming strokes. The best option is to have a qualified swim coach to instruct you, but if this is not possible you can certainly teach yourself the butterfly stroke.
The butterfly is broken down into two components: the kick and the stroke. The kick is done with the legs together in an undulating motion originating from the hips, flowing through the knees and then through the feet. This is known as a dolphin kick. Often it is helpful to practice the dolphin kick separately either with a kick board or while wearing flippers. This helps familiarize swimmers with the power and fluidity of the kick.
The stroke performed consists of three basic parts: the pull, the push, and the recovery. The stroke can be practiced separately while stationary in the water. Start with your arms out in front of you, shoulder width apart. Next, in a continuous motion bring your arms down through the water to waist-level, achieving the pull – pulling yourself through the water. Continue the arm motion with a push through to the hips or mid-thigh, and then bring your arms up out of the water, over the top of your head, and back around to the starting point to perform the recovery. This completes the motion of the stroke.
After mastering these two components, the next step is to put them together. This is best done with an understanding of the two-kick cycle. The two-kick cycle is performed by first pushing off of the wall of the pool with the dolphin kick. When you are ready to breathe, execute a pull and push, lifting your head out of the water and taking a deep breath. As you are pulling and pushing, do a giant kick to lift up out of the water and breathe. As you perform the recovery, kick back down into the water to glide for approximately 1-2 seconds. This completes the butterfly stroke.
Lastly, it is always recommended to learn butterfly stroke only after you are proficient in other basic strokes such as freestyle or breast stroke.