Dry land & Exercise

8 Best Core Exercises for Butterfly Swimmers

butterfly swimmer doing core exercises

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Butterfly is easily one of the toughest strokes in competitive swimming. I’m not saying the other strokes aren’t tough (because they are), but I think anyone can agree that butterfly challenges your body in ways other strokes don’t. And that’s why we will be taking a look at some of the best core exercises for butterfly swimmers.

Butterfly is very intensely focused around core strength and a strong core is essential for a good butterfly stroke. The core helps you to do a strong butterfly kick and it also connects the upper and the lower body in the stroke.

This is important since butterfly really does require the upper and lower body to work together.

Yes, butterfly is also very intensely focused around having good technique. However you need to remember in order to have good technique, you need a strong core.

Why? Because a strong core is an essential part of maintaining a good streamline and body position in the water. This will reduce drag and ultimately assist you in having great butterfly technique.

Before we start with the best core exercises for butterfly swimmers, let’s look a few more reason why a strong core is so important when swimming butterfly-


5 Reasons a strong core is important in butterfly

  • Balance and Stability in the water- 

Having a strong core is an essential part of maintaining a stable and balanced stroke. an Unstable stroke will result in bad technique and seriously decrease speed in the water. If you have ever watched younger swimmers, you will clearly notice that their stroke is all over the place, this is mostly because they don’t have a strong core


  • Improved Underwaters- 

Like I mentioned a bit earlier, the core plays a vital role in the butterfly kick. It just so happens that the butterfly kick (or dolphin kick) is used in underwaters. a Good underwater can make or break a race, so this reason alone is enough to start dishing out some sit-ups.


  • Increased power-

This has to do with the core linking the upper and lower body when swimming. Essentially what happens is when you have a strong core it increases the amount of power you can exert from the pull and the kick.

This happens, because it keeps the upper and lower body engaged when your body starts to fatigue, allowing for a maintained body position for a longer period of time.


  • Trunk Flexion-

Trunk flexion has to do with the up and down movement of the body to assist with the butterfly kick and other aspects of the butterfly technique when swimming. Having a strong core will increase the amount of power in this movement and ultimately result in faster times in the pool.


  • Improved body position-

 I touched on body position a bit earlier, but basically, a good body position is an essential part of swimming. It allows you to stay on top of the water when swimming allowing for reduced drag and it assists in having great technique whilst swimming.


8 Best core exercises for butterfly swimmers

1.) Plank

The plank is one of the best core exercises for butterfly swimmers. It is a great overall core exercise. What I mean by ‘overall’ is that it is a great exercise to strengthen the entire core.

The plank has multiple variations, from a basic plank to an extremely advanced planche. The technique is easy to learn and it’s just a great core strengthening exercise for all swimmers.


How to perform-

  • Start by going into a push-up position, but instead of balancing your upper body on your hands do it on your elbows.
  • Then try to straighten out your body as much as possible, until you are in a straight line.
  • After that squeeze, your core and other muscles tight, remember to breathe.
  • Hold that position for as long as you can and work from there.


2.) Sit-Ups

Sit-ups have been around for a very long time, it’s probably one of the first core exercises to exist. They are also an extremely popular exercise. Over the past few years, they’ve been given a bad reputation by some, but it still remains a great core exercise.

It’s not as versatile as the plank, but it’s a great exercise to build some core strength and start raking in some fast times.


How to perform-

  • Lay down on your back, with your knees bent in towards your bum.
  • Then get someone or something to hold your feet down.
  • Place your hands behind your head.
  • Then lift your head to your knees and back down in a controlled manner to perform a sit-up.


3.) Flutter Kicks

Flutter kicks is another very basic, but practical core exercise for competitive swimmers. It strengthens most of the core and has many different variations.

Beginners can start by placing their hands under their bum to make it easier, then you can move them away more and more until finally, they are behind your head. You can also do flutter kick hanging from a pull-up bar to make it really difficult.


How to perform-

  • Start by laying down on your back.
  • Place your hands underneath your bum or on your sides, depending on how strong you are.
  • Then lift your feet and your back slightly from the ground.
  • Start by doing small freestyle kicks in that position.


4.) Hanging Knee Raises

Hanging knee raises is a slightly more advanced core exercise. It requires you to have a pull-up bar, which if you are a swimmer, you absolutely should have.

You don’t need anything fancy, a simple doorway pull-up bar will do. (Check out this nice one on Amazon HERE). Hanging knee raises are easy to learn and there are many different ways to make it harder as you get stronger.


How to perform-

  • Start by grabbing onto your pull-up bar and going into a dead hang.
  • Then squeeze your traps and core until you are stable on the bar.
  • Lift your knees to your chest to perform a knee raise.
  • Make sure to avoid using momentum on this exercise.


5.) Toe Touches

Toe Touches is another great, basic, practical and easy core exercise for swimmers. It strengthens most of the core and it’s easy to learn and perform.

Toe touches are a great way to add some volume to your core training since you will be able to dish out a lot of reps quickly. This also results is that awesome core burn out we all love.


How to perform-

  • Start by laying flat on your back.
  • Then lift your legs up in the air ( make sure to point them slightly away from your body) and stretch your arms out in front of you.
  • After that start lifting your upper body with your core muscles in order to touch your toes.
  • Make sure not to stretch out with your arms to touch your toes, but to actually lift your upper body with your core.


6.) Lying Wind-Shield Wipers

This is a great core exercise to strengthen the sides of your core and the obliques. Most of the core exercises focus more on the center part of your core, but lying wind-shield wipers make up for that, try to include a few sets of these in your core routine.

They are quite a challenging exercise, especially for beginners, but you will be able to get stronger quickly. There are also quite a few variations you can do and some really advanced variations.


How to perform-

  • Once again start by laying down on your back.
  • Place your hands underneath your bum or on your sides, depending on your strength.
  • Lift your legs straight up into the air.
  • Then start by performing a windshield wiper movement with your legs.
  • Make sure not to ever touch the ground with your feet.


7.) Hanging L-Sit

The hanging L-sit is similar to the plank, but it is much more challenging. In my opinion, it is one of the best core exercises for butterfly swimmers. As I mentioned, the hanging L-sit is a much more challenging and advanced core exercise and it will take longer to master.

You also require a pull-up bar for this exercise, which once again you should have. The hanging L-sit will be quite challenging for anyone doing it for the first time, start by doing 5-10 seconds and try to increase the amount of time from there.


How to perform-

  • Grab onto your pull-up bar and go into a dead hang.
  • Then squeeze your back and your core muscles.
  • Lift your legs as straight as possible in front of you to achieve an L shape.
  • If you can’t keep your legs completely straight at the beginning that’s okay.


8.) Mountain Climbers

Mountain Climbers are another great exercise for butterfly swimmers to strengthen the obliques and most of the core. This is also another awesome burn-out core exercise, try doing it at the end of your core routine for as long as possible to finish off a great training session. Mountain Climbers will also get your heart rate up very quickly.


How to perform-

  • Simply start by going into a push-up position.
  • Then squeeze your core muscles tight.
  • Start by kicking your legs in from the sides until your knees come near your elbows to perform a mountain climber.
  • Try and do a set for 2 minutes, you will feel it.


Increase Reps and Sets to become stronger

There is a simple concept widely known as progressive overloading. It means to gradually increase the volume or intensity of an exercise in order for you to keep getting stronger. Why? Because the body adapts to physical exercise, once you do it a few times.

Thus if you don’t increase volume or intensity you won’t become stronger and you will be wasting your time. Try to increase reps and sets each week in order to keep progressing in your core training.



Core training is an essential factor if you want to become faster in the water. It will also help improve technique and reduce resistance in the water.

Try to at least take 20-30 minutes per day and do a couple of sets of each of these exercises. Trust me you will thank yourself later. Here is a quick list of the 8 best core exercises for butterfly swimmers again-


  • Planking
  • Sit-Ups
  • Flutter Kicks
  • Hanging Knee Raises
  • Toe Touches
  • Lying Wind-Shield Wipers
  • Hanging L-sit
  • Mountain Climbers



Photo by Tibout Maes on Unsplash

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About the author



I am Benjamin, a competitive swimmer with many years of experience in the sport of swimming. I am very passionate about competitive swimming and love sharing everything I have learned about the sport. I specialize in swimming butterfly and my favorite event is the 100m butterfly with the 50m and 200m fly closely following.

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