How to Improve Your Butterfly Stroke

Swimming is among the best ways to get in shape, burn a ton of calories, and strengthen your entire body. There are different techniques of swimming, many of which are done professionally by athletes. The butterfly stroke is among the most graceful and difficult techniques to master.

The benefits of learning and mastering the butterfly stroke are more than rewarding. You will have much greater stamina, you will lose weight, you will be more flexible, stronger, and will have much more energy. So, if you’re wondering about how to improve the butterfly stroke and become a master, then we have a few tips that might help you. We will go step by step and prioritize safety. Follow these guidelines and you will be on your way to having a perfect butterfly stroke.


man doing stretching exercise

Stretching is crucial for most types of exercise or activities that we do. It prevents us from immediately putting our muscles under heavy loads which may cause severe damage. When it comes to improving the butterfly stroke and swimming in general, so many muscles are focused.

Among the most used ones include the shoulders, back, and chest. They may be the primary ones used, but don’t think that you aren’t using your legs, lower back, or similar. This is why you need to make sure to stretch your entire body properly before jumping in the pool. Focus on your shoulders and back the most for the butterfly stroke. This is highly important if you want to avoid any injuries such as Swimmer’s Shoulder or similar.

Improving Butterfly Stroke Drills

person with tattoo doing butterfly stroke

When you look at someone who does this swimming stroke perfectly they look graceful speeding through the pool. It’s no wonder why this technique is so difficult to master. It gets you tired extremely quickly and is very easy to mess up. This is why you need to train and do the following drills. You must build up your strength, establish decent muscle flexibility, and muscle memory as well. Also, wearing some high-quality swimming goggles will definitely make things a lot easier for keeping balance and maintaining direction.

Train Core Strength

person doing planks

We already established that this swimming stroke will take a lot of energy and may get you tired pretty quickly. Because of this, you need to have a firm and sturdy core. Otherwise, you won’t be able to take the immense amount of pressure the stroke puts on your muscles.

As a result, it’s best to start training outside of the pool. There are plenty of great core strength exercises that can improve your core muscles in a short amount of time. The best part of all, you can do all of them from the comfort of your own home. Trust me, doing the butterfly swimming stroke will be much easier with better core strength.

Dolphin Kicks

This drill will make sure that you get the leg part of the stroke right. Moving your lower body perfectly is as important as your back, chest, and arms. Because of this, practicing different variations of the dolphin kick drill can improve your butterfly stroke significantly.

Try doing dolphin kicks on your back while holding a kickboard in your hands. Hold your hands up slightly above the water surface with the kickboard and start moving with your legs using the dolphin kick drill. This isn’t the best drill but it’s the easiest, making sure you safely move up to the harder and more efficient ones.

After practicing this enough, turn around and practice the dolphin kick normally. This is also a great way to significantly improve core strength. Practice this until you’re ready to start training upper body drills.

Arm Control

man swimming with butterfly stroke

Once you’ve learned how to keep your legs stable and doing the right movements in order to push yourself forward, you must focus on arm control. This will make sure that you don’t drift sideways and maintain a steady and constant speed. You must remember that your arms are supposed to push you forward, and not up. Here is an exercise you could do to improve this aspect of the butterfly stroke.

Get inside the pool and stand next to the edge. Put your hands on the tiles outside the pool and start lifting yourself up using only your hands. Keep in mind not to touch the floor and don’t jump using your legs. Remember to go underwater until only your hands are touching the top of the end tiles. Once there, lift yourself out of the pool by using only your hands.

This exercise will help in a number of ways. You are doing similar motions as a butterfly stroke requires. You are also gaining strength for the real thing. Lastly, you’re getting flexible enough so that you don’t cause any injuries while improving your butterfly stroke.

One-Handed Stroke Drill

Now, let’s get inside the pool and finally do some swimming. If you’re not yet able to do the full butterfly stroke without getting tired immediately, you might want to try doing an easier version of it.

This is called the one-handed butterfly stroke. It’s basically the same as the real butterfly but it involves you using one hand at a time, instead of two. This significantly changes the difficulty level as pulling yourself forward with both hands is one of the hardest parts of this stroke.

Because of this, you’re going to start the butterfly swimming stroke normally and simply pull yourself forward with one hand at a time, while the other rests. The hand you’re not using when pulling yourself should be tucked nicely alongside your body.


Another reason you may be getting tired while doing the butterfly stroke could be the wrong breathing technique. Once you’ve perfected the drills of doing a great butterfly stroke, you should focus on correct breathing. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you jump inside the swimming pool. These techniques don’t apply to all types of swimming strokes, only to the butterfly.

  • Inhale quickly once you come out on the surface
  • Get big breaths and quickly dive back inside the water
  • Don’t exhale immediately, wait until your arms finish the cycle
  • Breathe every two arm cycles if you can take it, otherwise inhale and exhale every cycle

About The Author

AthletePath Staff

We are a team of enthusiasts and professional athletes thriving to provide you with helpful advice on buying everything you may ever need to become a better athlete.

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