Note- We may earn commisions from affiliate links on certain pages at no extra cost to you. Read Disclosure & Your Privacy Rights
It requires extreme strength, endurance, and power to sprint a 200m or even a 100m butterfly in a fast time.
Being able to swim a good 200m or 100m butterfly time is the mark of a good competitive swimmer.
Butterfly is the second fastest stroke in competitive swimming, after freestyle.
You might find it interesting to know that butterfly is actually faster than freestyle when you reach your peak speed, but since tempo drops significantly during the recovery phase and due to physical exhaustion it is actually slightly slower over the course of a race.
So, you are probably asking how do you swim butterfly without getting tired?
In short, my answer is- you can’t swim butterfly without getting tired. However, you can significantly reduce the amount of energy used on building speed in the water by improving your body position, technique and swimming at a controlled speed with a race plan in mind.
This is not the only benefit of improving your technique and body position. When you have more energy available you will be able to direct that energy into swimming faster, ultimately smashing your best times and winning your races.
The point of competitive swimming isn’t to be able to swim without getting tired, but rather to swim as fast as possible and ultimately win your race. Like my coach has always told us during a hard training session- “If you are looking for a sport that is easy, go play chess”.
At the end of the day, you will be able to swim a certain distance of butterfly without getting tired, but if you want to be able to swim fast you will get tired as you near the end of the race and push your body to the limit. How quickly you become tired depends on the race, in a 50 the end will come much sooner than in a 200 butterfly.
With that being said, let’s actually look at some of the ways that you can reduce the amount of energy used when swimming butterfly and ultimately swim butterfly without getting tired… for a certain amount of distance at least.
The ultimate goal of improving technique and body position in the water would be to reduce resistance as much as possible. Reduced resistance means that you have to use less energy to move through the water.
Ultimately you will save a lot of energy by doing this. This energy can then be translated into swimming faster.
Also, read- 8 awesome drills for faster butterfly swimming
Tips for swimming butterfly without getting tired
The most efficient swimmers are the ones with the best body position
I can not stress how important body position is in competitive swimming. Proper body position is one of the most important factors when it comes to reducing resistance in the water, improving the efficiency and rate at which you can swim.
Body position is the most basic, yet hardest aspect of mastering the technique in any given stroke. If you can’t swim with good body position you won’t be able to master the other aspects of the butterfly technique.
What does good body position look like?
The first step in improving your body position is to place your body in a streamlined position.
Next, you want to tuck your head in towards your chest.
After that, you need to focus on the lower body, remember the main point of body position is to aim to swim on top of the water.
Focus on pushing your hips slightly out and upwards, your legs will automatically raise higher in the water when you do this. Keep your toes pointed, you don’t want your feet to create drag at the back end of your stroke.
After all of this, your body should be in an almost perfectly straight line. That is what you’re aiming for.
Practice setting up your body position in your strokes every day, in the beginning, it will be hard, but it becomes easier as you get more comfortable with the feeling and position in the water.
I just want to quickly discuss a few common mistakes that might occur after a swimmer starts focusing on body position.
The first of which is kicking on top of the water, due to the swimmer aiming to swim as high as possible in the water to reduce resistance they might forget that you still need to actually kick under the water as much as possible.
Kicking on top of the water won’t help to build speed and it will be a complete waste of energy.
The second error is when a swimmer starts moving their head too much due to the different positioning. It is still important to remember to keep the head still and controlled in the water.
With all of that being said, aim to incorporate these things into your butterfly stroke. Yes, it will be hard, but it will be very beneficial for you as a swimmer in the long run.
Improved technique will reduce resistance significantly
The next aspect of reducing resistance, swimming faster and more efficient in the water is the butterfly technique. I find the butterfly technique a bit more complicated than some of the other strokes.
We will start by looking at the pulling and pushing movement of the arms in the water. The pull/ push movement is one of the main drivers of speed and power in the water.
The butterfly arm movement can be broken down into three main phases- the pull, the push, and the recovery.
The stroke begins with the pulling movement, the beginning of the pulling movement is very similar to the breaststroke pull. The hands move down and outwards at shoulder width with the palms facing outwards, where after they proceed to form a Y.
The next part of the arm movement is the push. The pushing movement is relatively short in comparison to the pulling and recovery motion. However, it is of the most critical parts for building speed in the water.
As soon as the pulling motion ends, you want to increase power and speed in the arms and create a powerful pushing movement.
The push ends and the recovery starts when the hands exit the water. The recovery phase is very important if you want to maintain energy in the water.
During the recovery phase, the arms will move back over the water, you will breathe during this motion. After the recovery phase has ended the pulling phase will start again.
a Common mistake many swimmers make in the arm movement of the butterfly technique is that they don’t use enough power and energy on the pushing movement.
This can quickly become a problem because now they need to use power and energy during the recovery phase to help pull the arms over the body, whereas if they had done a proper push they wouldn’t have to use this energy.
All of this will happen very quickly. It’s best to slow down your tempo and focus on doing everything right when you are working on your technique.
Next, we will cover the kicking aspect of the butterfly technique.
The kicking motion plays a big role in building speed and helping the swimmer to move the shoulders and arms out and over the water.
The rules of competitive swimming allow butterfly swimmers to use as many butterfly kicks as they want to. However, the most efficient way to kick is by using two kicks.
These two kicks can also be broken down into two different phases- The first phase is the explosive kick and the second is the recovery kick.
The explosive kick is the first kick in your butterfly stroke and goes along with the pushing phase of the arms. This kick should be a very small strong kick. It will help your arms and shoulders to exit the water and enter the recovery phase.
As soon as the recovery phase starts you can start your recovery kick. This kick is a big and relaxed kick. During this kick, your hips should exit the water.
The recovery kick is paired with both the recovery and pulling movement of the arms.
As you would have noticed these kicks happen very fast and are very near each other, therefore I once again recommend you to slow down your tempo when working on technique.
I hope I explained this in an understandable manner, it was quite hard to place what I was trying to explain on paper.
Swim at a controlled pace with a race plan in mind
There is a term in competitive swimming named- controlled speed.
The meaning of it is to swim comfortably and relaxed, whilst maintaining a high tempo. Using this technique you can swim near your best times, with far less effort.
For example let’s say your 50m fly time is a 25.11, well using controlled speed you can swim a 25.70-25.80 without using nearly as much energy. (I don’t actually recommend you do this for a 50m).
This technique should be applied to 200 and sometimes 100 fly’s.
This will allow you to swim at a fast pace the first 150 of your 200 and then use the rest of your energy to motor to the finish line in the last 50.
When you combine this technique with a good race plan, you will be able to significantly reduce the amount of energy used during some of your laps. You will then use the saved energy the last 50 or 100 to build as much speed as possible.
Something to note when using the ‘controlled speed’ technique is you don’t actually want to grip the water, you simply want to be able to move your arms and legs through it at a high tempo with minimum resistance.
Proper breathing will supply your muscles with the needed oxygen
When we are swimming your muscle cells will respire more than they do when your body is at rest. Your heart rate will also increase, the function of this is to pump more oxygen into your blood and remove carbon dioxide.
However, since we are swimming our oxygen supply is limited and even more so in butterfly, since we only have a small period to breathe.
Because of this, it is important to optimize our breathing as much as possible. This will allow us to consume the maximum amount of oxygen on every breath we take.
You can optimize your breathing by blowing out as much air as you can in between strokes.
If you are keeping your head down for more than one stroke it might be a good idea to hold onto your current air supply for a bit longer. You should only start breathing out a stroke or two before you are going to breathe.
Keep your breathing relaxed, this really helps. I use this breathing technique mostly in my 200 and 100 fly. I have found that it helps to increase power output a lot. Especially as you near the end of your race and your body starts to fatigue.
Train butterfly more- the fitter you are the easier it becomes
The last tip I have for you is to simply swim butterfly more. Burn a little more, take the pain a little bit more. Eventually, it will start to become much easier.
Not only will your body becomes stronger and adapt to the physical requirements of butterfly, but you will also have much more time to work on your technique and body position.
Eventually, a set of 10×200’s butterfly will become easy. You will be able to swim faster and master the art of butterfly.
I hope this helps you to improve your butterfly and that you will be able to swim with less effort.
Remember if you are absolutely dead after a race that is excellent, that is what you want. You never want to feel like you could have given more because that means you could have. You want to know that you have done your best and that your best was enough.
Here is a summary of the 4 tips on how to swim butterfly without getting tired-
- Improve your body position.
- Improve your technique.
- Breath properly.
- Train your butterfly more.
VISIT MY BLOG FOR MORE ARTICLES ON COMPETITIVE SWIMMING.
More swimming articles-
- Strength and conditioning for swimmers– Many swimmers lack the needed dry-land and gym strength and conditioning work for optimal results in the pool. In this article I will cover it in a very in-depth manner, you will learn about the different types of strength required in swimming and the types of exercises to improve them.
- Best swimming goggles for competition– In this article, I will analyze and cover the best swimming goggles for competition. Competition swim goggles actually play a big role in swimming fast times and having the best goggles will only do you good. Find out what are the 8 best competition swim goggles in this article.
- How to avoid, prevent and fix shoulder injuries in swimming– Many butterfly swimmers obtain shoulder injuries since the stroke is so demanding on your shoulders. Read this guide to find out how to prevent and avoid these injuries.