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10 Butterfly Stroke Drills for Improved Swimming Technique

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Swimming is all about reducing resistance in the water as much as possible and being able to swim as fast as you can to ultimately win your race, grab that qualifying time, or break that big meet record.

Technique and body position in the water play a critical role when it comes to reducing resistance in the water and swimming faster.

As butterfly swimmers, we should always be striving to improve our technique and becoming better. No matter how good your technique is chances are there will always be some minor improvement that you could make.

That minor improvement might not seem like a big deal, but when you start to add a few minor technique issues together and start improving on them you can most likely significantly increase your speed in the pool.

So with that said, one of the easiest ways to improve your swimming technique is to focus on every different aspect of it using a variety of swimming drills that work on different parts of your stroke. This will help you to master all the details and then to bring it together when you are swimming.

In this article, we’ll go through 10 excellent butterfly swimming drills that you can do to improve your stroke technique. These drills are great for both beginner and advanced swimmers and will focus on all of the different parts of the stroke as well as teaching you how to reduce resistance and increase propulsion.

10 Butterfly Swimming Drills for Better Swim Technique

Here are 10 butterfly swimming drills to improve your technique and swim faster-

  • Body position butterfly kicking drill
  • One arm butterfly swimming
  • 3,3,3 butterfly swim drill
  • Butterfly push through drill
  • Butterfly kick on your back
  • No kick butterfly swimming drill
  • Butterfly swimming with freestyle legs
  • Closed fist butterfly swimming
  • Angel butterfly swim drill
  • Body position butterfly swimming

1. Butterfly Body Position Kicking Drill

The butterfly body position kick drill is a very simple and basic drill that teaches the correct butterfly kicking mechanics and also works on maintaining a good and high body position in the water which will ultimately help to reduce resistance as you swim. Additionally, it’ll help to improve your coordination and stability in your butterfly stroke.

This drill can be done in a couple of different ways, as highlighted below. For example, to place more focus on speed you can do it while wearing some swimming fins. If you want to make it more challenging and more like the real stroke, place your arms in front of you instead of by your sides.

How to perform the swimming drill-

  • Start by going into butterfly body position (Head tucked in towards your chest, chest press, hips slightly up and legs straight, so that your body is in an almost perfectly horizontal line).
  • Then place your hands by your sides or in front of you and start the kicking motion.
  • One powerful small kick, one relaxed, big kick (or in whichever way you do your butterfly kicking).
  • Simply repeat it at the same rate at which you would when swimming butterfly.
  • Make sure that your hips exit the water and that you maintain a high body position.

2. One Arm Butterfly Swimming Drill

The one-arm butterfly swimming drill is a great way to break down your stroke and focus on all of the different aspects without getting very tired, it is much more relaxed and not nearly as energy-intensive as normal butterfly swimming.

The drill has 2 arm variations. The first is where you keep your arm by your side which is useful for getting a more rhythmic stroke and engaging the lower body more. Secondly, you can keep your arm in front which is a bit more challenging but simulates the real stroke more.

You can also choose to breathe to your side or to your front. Personally, I recommend breathing to your front as this is how you’d swim in butterfly.

How to perform the swimming drill-

  • Kick-off from the wall and go into butterfly body position.
  • Breakout and keep your one arm still in front or by your side while you take a butterfly stroke with the other.
  • Do a length using the same arm, then do a turn and use your other arm.
  • Make sure to keep a good rhythm and to keep your kick the same as in normal butterfly swimming.
  • Really try to get your technique perfect or zone in on stroke-specific aspects to yourself.

3. The 3, 3, 3 Butterfly Swimming Drill

Likewise, the one-arm drill, the 3,3,3 butterfly stroke drill is a good drill to focus on specific aspects of the arm movement during butterfly, you can work on things like hand placement, feeling the line of your stroke and improving the pulling and pushing movements.

This drill is particularly good as it allows you to focus on the technical aspects of your stroke with each arm separately before pushing you to combine them to perform the same movement.

This way it is easier to learn the technique since you only have to focus on 1 arm at a time before combining them to create a fluent motion.

This drill is also good for building butterfly endurance as you can do it for quite some time before getting tired making it a good option for newbies just starting to swim butterfly or for advanced swimmers who want to increase endurance for something like a 100 or 200 fly or even a 400 IM.

How to perform the swimming drill-

  • Start by pushing off the wall and going into a normal butterfly breakout.
  • When you break out only use 1 arm, you can place the other one next to your side or in front of you, I prefer keeping my arms in front with this drill.
  • Then give 3 strokes with the 1 arm and switch to the other, once you have completed 3 strokes on each do 3 strokes with both. (Essentially swimming normal butterfly, but focusing on your technique).
  • You can also do a 2,2,2 variation of this drill for some more tempo if you’d like.

Related- How to swim butterfly without getting tired.

4. Butterfly Push Through Drill

The butterfly push through drill, also known as the wave drill, is an excellent butterfly swimming drill to improve your grip in the water during the catching phase of your stroke and your power in the pulling motion of your butterfly stroke.

Many swimmers lack the necessary power required in the pushing phase of the butterfly arm movement which causes them to use energy during the recovery phase in order to get their arms over the water. This is a very inefficient way of swimming butterfly and can significantly decrease your speed.

This drill will, however, work the muscles involved in the motions and will train you to use them properly while swimming as well as teaching you how to properly grab hold of the water for maximum propulsion.

How to perform the swimming drill-

  • Start by pushing off the wall and going into the standard butterfly body position with your arms extended overhead.
  • Then start the catching phase of your arm stroke while giving light butterfly kicks.
  • As you reach the end of the catch, give a strong and big kick, accelerate speed, and give a powerful pull so that your arms shoot out over the water.
  • Do not go into the recovery phase of the arm stroke, just do 1-2 butterfly kicks to go back into the starting position and repeat.
  • Note- the point of this drill isn’t to shoot your arms out, but rather to grip the water properly and then push water backward behind you as hard as possible in order to create maximal propulsion.

5. Back Dolphin Kicking Drill

The back dolphin kicking drill focuses on many of the same aspects as in the body position kicking drill. However, it is slightly more orientated towards kicking power and core strength and you can actually go quite fast with it, especially if you slap on a pair of fins.

This drill is obviously orientated towards improving your kicking power and mechanics for butterfly, but keep in mind that it’s also a great drill for improving your underwater dolphin kick without getting completely oxygen depleted.

P.S– for some more butterfly core strength, consider checking out my article on the best core exercises for butterfly swimmers.

How to perform the swimming drill-

  • Push off the wall and go into the backstroke body position.
  • Place your arms and hands in a tight streamline position above your head.
  • Start doing small, fast, and powerful butterfly kicks.
  • Make sure to kick down and to use your core and hips to do the kick, don’t just bend at your knees as that is completely pointless.

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6. No Kick Butterfly Swimming Drill

The no-kick butterfly drill is a great drill to learn to use leverage and momentum to your advantage while swimming. It’ll also increase your pulling power and will teach you how to power your stroke from the core muscles as your legs won’t be heavily engaged.

Additionally, this drill will also teach you to maintain a good body position in the water under any circumstance.

All in all, this drill is really great for swimmers. The reason I didn’t place it higher on the list is because it’s more orientated to advanced swimmers and you’ll probably have limited room to incorporate it as it is quite a slow drill.

How to perform the swimming drill-

  • Kick off the wall to start the drill, as you move to the surface of the water, focus on achieving a good body position in the water. (straight spine, firm core and high hips and legs).
  • Then give a strong arm stroke through the water, without kicking. Take a breath as your body reaches the highest point in the water. Recover using your core to propel your arms forward.
  • You will notice that your feet snap down a little bit in the water anyway.
  • Do a few more strokes, whilst focusing on maintaining a high hip and body position in the water. Use powerful arm strokes to propel yourself forward in the water.
  • Once, again you will notice that your feet snap down and produce a little kick-like movement in the water, without you actively trying to kick.
  • Repeat the drill, focusing on trying to make your feet snap down purely through the force generated by the other movements in your stroke.
  • You may also choose to use a pull-buoy if you struggle to keep your legs up.

7. Butterfly Swimming with Freestyle Kick

Butterfly swimming with a freestyle kick is a excellent drill to teach swimmers the arm mechanics and head positioning when swimming butterfly at high speeds. This drill is also a good race prepping drill that you can do during warm up at your next swim meet to get some speed going and to get a feel for the water.

This drill is orientated more towards intermediate and advanced swimmers and will require you to have a basic understanding of how to swim butterfly correctly before you can properly execute this drill.

How to perform the swimming drill-

  • Push off the wall, do a breakout, and go into butterfly swimming.
  • Instead of doing any butterfly kicks during your breakout or swimming replace them with freestyle flutter kicks.
  • These kicks should be short and powerful as in a freestyle sprint.
  • Swim butterfly and focus on aggressively snapping your head down and arms over, you should feel a nice and propulsive surge as your arms enter the water.
  • You can perform the drill with fins or without fins.

Related- 10 best dryland exercises for faster butterfly swimming.

8. Butterfly Swimming with Closed Fists

The closed fist swimming drill is one of my favorite swimming drills and it can be used during all of the different strokes. This drill is really great for teaching you how to get a good grip in the water and maximize your propulsion by using your entire forearm and not just your hands.

Many times swimmers don’t maximize the propulsion that they can generate with the surface area on their forearms, but no worries, this drill will teach you to do exactly that.

This drill is an great all around swimming drill that can be done by swimmers from all levels and can help to greatly improve your speed and efficiency while swimming butterfly by maximizing your grip and propulsion.

How to perform the swimming drill-

  • Push of the wall, do a breakout, and start swimming butterfly.
  • Instead of having your hands open and cupped, close them so that they form a fist.
  • Focus on pulling water with your forearms and also gripping the water as well as possible during the catching phase.
  • Swim like this for a couple of lengths as you adjust to the feeling in the water.

(The video below, is for freestyle, but it explains the concept well, so watch it anyway).

9. Angel Wing Butterfly Swimming Drill

The angel butterfly swim drill is a good drill for focusing on using low amounts of energy during the recovery phase of your stroke and teaching yourself proper hand entry after each stroke.

Personally, I really like this drill and incorporate into my training every now and then. Keep in mind, it can be quite challenging, especially when performed without additional equipment like a pull-buoy and snorkel.

How to perform the swimming drill-

  • Start by kicking off the wall and going into the butterfly body position, try to get as high in the water as you can.
  • Then do a half-stroke through the water, only to the point where your arms exit the water.
  • As they exit do a full recovery, but instead of going into the catching phase after, reverse the recovery back again to the point where your arms would have exited the water.
  • The result of this motion would be a halo, like the one above an angel’s head supposedly.
  • Continue this movement creating as many halos as you can until you complete a length.
  • Focus on using as little as possible energy in order to create your angel halos.
  • If you aren’t using additional equipment remember to do a few sculls in between as recovery since you won’t be breathing during the drill.

10. Body Position Butterfly Swimming Drill

butterfly stroke drills

The body position swimming drill is one of the best butterfly drills and combines all of the different aspects of the stroke in a relaxed manner so that you can work on your swimming technique.

This drill might be a little confusing for some as it really is just normal butterfly swimming broken down into a slower stroke that emphasizes each aspect before moving onto the next in order to finally complete a full butterfly swimming motion.

How to perform the swimming drill-

  • Kick off the wall and go into a superman position with arms extended above your head.
  • Give a few butterfly kicks and then start the arm movement.
  • First execute the catch, then the pull, and finally the recovery as you bring your arms over.
  • Make sure to kick at the correct times.
  • Your first kick should be given as the arms enter the water and the second as your arms move through underneath your belly button.
  • It’s important to stay relaxed throughout the entire drill as you go through each motion of the butterfly stroke.
  • Repeat the drill for multiple 25s or 50s.

Did you know that tech suits can improve swimming performance? Consider checking out my article on the best tech suits for butterfly swimming to maximize your performance in the water, or read my article on do tech suits make a difference? If you are unsure.

Benefits of Butterfly Stroke Swimming Drills

1. Improved Overall Butterfly Swimming Technique

I won’t spend too much time here since we already roughly discussed this throughout the article.

The point is that butterfly swimming drills can improve different aspects of your technique and stroke, depending on what drill you decide to use. There are all sorts of different butterfly stroke drills that focus on different aspects of your technique.

When you combine a few of these drills in your daily training you can create a good overall drill strategy, that will ultimately focus on improving your butterfly stroke and technique as a whole. In time you can play around and mix up your drills to see what works best for you and which drills benefit you most.

Ultimately you will be able to improve the most important aspects of your butterfly technique and will become a better and faster swimmer in the long run.

2. Improved Power When Swimming Butterfly

Besides improving your technique and reducing resistance in the water, you may also be able to gain improvements in power output from the kicking and pulling mechanics in your butterfly stroke, ultimately making you even faster.

I’ll explain what I mean by this- You see not all drills are completely focused on improving technique, some are focused on improving a certain movement and making you stronger in that movement.

Take the push through drill for example, during this drill you are focusing on gripping the water and pushing it as hard as possible with your hands, in a race, this can make a huge difference in your power output, ultimately seriously increasing your speed in the water.

So by doing drills like the push through drill where the focus is on improving the power from the pulling movement, you will be able to gain an improvement in power output which will make you stronger, faster, and more explosive in the water.

3. Improvements on Minor Details and Issues Specific to Your Stroke

We have discussed how butterfly stroke drills can improve overall technique and increase your power output in the water.

However, there is still another benefit of doing these swimming drills. One of which is that you can focus on drills that work on improving minor details and issues specific to your butterfly stroke.

Not everyone’s butterfly stroke is the same. At the end of the day, everyone has their own style of swimming it. Take one of my former teammates for example- his butterfly looks way different than most people’s stroke, it looks kinda wacky in ways.

But at the end of the race, he is still able to swim some really fast and good times- times that are fast enough to beat most of his competitors.

Improve Your Butterfly with These Swimming Drills

These drills can truly help improve your stroke and technique, ultimately making you a faster and better butterfly swimmer!

I highly recommend that you incorporate a few of these drills into your training sessions. Look at them, decide which would most benefit you, maybe write them down if you wish or save this article, and next time your coach tells you to do a 400 drill, do them!

Photo of author
I am Benjamin, a competitive swimmer with over a decande of experience in the sport of swimming. I also hold certifications in Exercise Science and Nutrition. 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.

A Cheat Sheet for Creating the Perfect Swimming Workout and Routine

Download this FREE cheat sheet to create the perfect swimming workout and routine. Learn how to structure your swim workout and enjoy 9 example workouts, ranging from beginner to advanced.

Swim Workout Cheat Sheet
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