The butterfly swimming technique, also known as the butterfly stroke, is one of the most challenging swimming strokes to master. It requires a great deal of strength, endurance, and coordination to perform correctly. However, with the right technique and practice, anyone can learn how to swim the butterfly stroke. In this article, we will discuss how to learn the butterfly stroke step by step, from preparatory exercises to the basic movement technique, and final tips.

What is Butterfly Swimming?

The butterfly is a swimming stroke that involves both the arms and legs in a coordinated movement. It’s sometimes referred to as “fly” for short. The stroke consists of two dolphin kicks followed by two arm pulls and is repeated throughout the swim. The butterfly stroke requires a lot of strength and coordination, making it challenging for beginners. However, with practice and dedication, anyone can learn to swim butterfly.

Preparatory Exercises

Before diving into the butterfly stroke, it is important to prepare your body with a few basic exercises.

  1. Dolphin Kick: Lie on your stomach with your arms extended in front of you, and your legs together. Then, kick your legs up and down in a fast, fluid motion, like a dolphin.
  2. Arm Circles: Stand with your arms extended out to your sides. Then, make small circles with your arms, gradually increasing the size of the circles until they are as wide as possible.
  3. Arm Swings: Stand with your arms at your sides. Then, swing your arms forward and backward in a fluid motion, as if you are swimming the butterfly stroke.

Basic Movement Technique:

  1. Body Position: The first step to performing the butterfly stroke is to get your body into the correct position. Lie on your stomach with your arms extended in front of you, and your legs together. Keep your head facing down towards the bottom of the pool.
  2. Arm Technique: The arm technique is crucial to the butterfly stroke. Start by pulling your arms back towards your hips, keeping them close to your body. Then, push your arms forward in a circular motion, making sure to keep your elbows high. As your arms move forward, bring them together in front of your body, and then extend them back out in front of you.
  3. Leg Technique: The dolphin kick is essential to the butterfly stroke. To perform the kick, start with your legs together, and your toes pointed. Then, kick your legs up and down in a fluid motion, like a dolphin. Keep your legs close together, and use the power from your hips to propel yourself forward.
  4. Breathing Technique: Breathing is an important part of any swimming stroke, and the butterfly stroke is no exception. The key to the butterfly breathing technique is to take short breaths as your head comes up out of the water. As you pull your arms back, lift your head up out of the water, and take a quick breath. Then, put your head back down as your arms extend out in front of you.

Butterfly Breathing Drills

To improve your butterfly breathing technique, you can try the following drills:

  1. One-Arm Drill: Swim with one arm at a time, taking a breath every other stroke.
  2. Kick and Breathe: Swim using only the dolphin kick, and practice taking short breaths as your head comes up out of the water.

Butterfly Drills for Beginners

If you are just starting to learn the butterfly stroke, it is important to practice some basic drills to help you master the technique.

  1. Butterfly Arms: Swim using only your arms, focusing on the circular motion and high elbow technique.
  2. Butterfly Legs: Swim using only your legs, focusing on the dolphin kick.
  3. Butterfly Swim: Put everything together and swim the full butterfly stroke, focusing on maintaining good technique and form.

Butterfly Swimming Strokes

Now that you’ve done some preparatory exercises, it’s time to get into the butterfly swimming strokes. Here are the basic movements for butterfly swimming:

  1. The Dolphin Kick: Start in a streamlined position with your arms stretched out in front of you and your head down. Begin the dolphin kick by simultaneously pushing down with your chest and hips, then bringing them up together. Repeat this motion in a continuous and fluid motion.
  2. The Arm Pull: After the second kick, begin the arm pull by bringing your arms forward and down in a circular motion, keeping your elbows close to your sides. As your hands reach your hips, push them forward and out to start the next dolphin kick.

Butterfly Technique Breathing

Breathing is one of the most challenging aspects of the butterfly stroke for beginners. Here are some butterfly breathing drills to help you improve your technique:

  1. Head-Lead Body Dolphin: Begin by pushing off the wall with your arms at your sides and your head up. Start kicking your legs in a dolphin kick motion while keeping your head above water. As you improve, add in a small undulation of your body to mimic the butterfly stroke. Practice this drill until you feel comfortable keeping your head above water.
  2. Head-Lead Arm Pull: Once you’re comfortable with the head-lead body dolphin, add in the arm pull. After the second kick, begin the arm pull and then lift your head up to breathe before returning it to the water.

Final Tips

Here are some final tips to help you improve your butterfly swimming technique:

  1. Build your strength: The butterfly stroke requires a lot of strength, especially in your core and shoulders. Make sure to do strength-building exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, and planks to help you improve.
  2. Focus on your technique: When you’re first learning butterflies, it’s essential to focus on your technique rather than your speed. Make sure you’re using the proper arm and leg movements and breathing techniques before trying to go faster.
  3. Practice regularly: Like any new skill, learning the butterfly stroke takes practice. Make sure to practice regularly to build your strength and improve your technique.
  4. Get a coach: If you’re having trouble with your technique or need additional help, consider getting a coach to help you. They can give you personalized feedback and tips to help you improve.


Learning the butterfly stroke can be challenging for beginners, but it’s also a rewarding and exciting stroke to master. By doing preparatory exercises, practicing the basic movements, and focusing on your technique, you can become a confident and skilled butterfly swimmer. Remember to take it slow, practice regularly, and have fun!

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Guest article.

The above may not coincide with the methodology and opinion of the SwimRight Academy Team.