Do you want to become a faster and better butterfly swimmer? Well, in that case, you have come to the right place. In today’s article, we will be looking at the 10 best dryland exercises to improve your butterfly stroke.
In the modern era of competitive swimming, if you aren’t actively doing dry-land training then you are being placed at a huge disadvantage. Nowadays, every good swimmer is doing some type of dryland training outside of the pool to enhance their power, strength, and speed abilities, ultimately allowing for faster swimming performances.
When deciding on which dry-land exercises are best for butterfly swimmers, it is important to look at which muscles are primarily involved during butterfly swimming. This will allow us to choose the most beneficial exercises to strengthen those muscle groups.
Butterfly swimming utilizes almost every muscle group in the body, but the primary muscle groups are going to be the latimus dorsi, trapezius, chest, shoulders, quadriceps, hamstrings, and tricep muscles.
A lot of swimming and strength coaches will give swimmers exercises designed to mimic the butterfly swimming pattern. This isn’t going to be very beneficial in improving power output during the actual swim, instead, this is going to focus more on enhancing the technique of that stroke.
Generally, this is not what we want to achieve with our dry-land training. We want to increase strength so that you can exert more power during your swim allowing you to go faster. The only time you would want to do dry-land like that is if you have really awful swim technique.
With that being said, let’s take a look at the best dryland exercises for butterfly swimmers-
10 Best Dryland Exercises to Improve Your Butterfly Swimming
Here is a quick list of the best dry-land exercises for butterfly swimmers-
- Straight Leg Raises
- Medicine ball slams
- Box Jumps
- Hip Bridge
- Tricep pull downs with resistance band
Whether you are a butterfly-, backstroke- breaststroke, or freestyle swimmer. Chances are I’d probably recommend you to do pull-ups. Pull-ups are probably one of the best exercises swimmers can do since it works a lot of the primary muscles groups used in each stroke of swimming.
The pull-up is great at developing the upper back muscles, this includes the traps and lats, which are very important for swimming, even more so in butterfly swimming. The pull-up is also great at strengthening the biceps and it will increase core stability if you do them properly.
How to perform the pull-up correctly-
- Start by grabbing onto the pull-up bar with your hands about shoulder-width apart. You can make your grip wider if you want to activate your lats more.
- Retract your scapula and set your shoulders in a stable position while hanging on the bar.
- Then brace your abdominals and pull yourself up until your head is over the bar. Make sure to keep the back and biceps involved while pulling.
- Avoid swinging your legs or using momentum. Start with resistance band or jumping pull-ups if you can’t do normal pull-ups at first.
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Related: Why every swimmer should do pull ups.
2. Straight Leg Raises
Straight leg raises are easily one of my favorite core exercises. They are great at activating the abdominal muscles and will help swimmers to develop some serious core stability both in and out of the pool.
They primarily target the rectus abdominal muscles, used in swimming butterfly, as well as the external oblique muscle groups.
There are 2 main variations of the straight leg raise. The first being a laying leg raise off the floor, and the second being a hanging leg raise from a pull-up bar which is far more effective.
How to perform the straight leg raise for optimal butterfly swimming performance-
- Start by grabbing onto a pull-up bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Brace your scapula, back, and core, and then lift your legs until they create a 90-degree line in front of you.
- Hold it for a second, then slowly lower your legs back down and repeat.
- Avoid using momentum.
The plank is an excellent exercise for developing overall core stability. This is going to help swimmers to stay stable in all of their swimming strokes. It is also important to remember that the core muscles are the link between the upper- and lower body.
A strong core will result in both a stronger pull and kick while swimming and will allow the body to function as a unit.
How to perform the plank with correct technique-
- Go into a standard plank position by keeping your body in a straight and rigid line.
- Brace your core, hips and lower back.
- Then hold that position for as long as possible.
- Focus on keeping your body in a straight line and avoid dropping your hips.
Squats come in many different variations. You have weighted back squats, weighted front squats, bodyweight squats, jumping squats, goblet squats and a lot of other variations.
The fact of the matter is that squats are great at strengthening the legs. They primarily focus on the quadriceps and glutes but also involve the hamstrings and calves. Squats are also a great exercise for developing explosive power, ultimately allowing for better starts and turns in your swimming races.
How to perform bodyweight squats correctly-
- Place your feet shoulder with apart with your toes slightly pointed out.
- Brace your core and lower back and then drop down into the squat until your hips are just below the knee.
- Then use your legs and heels to drive yourself back to the starting position and repeat.
5. Medicine Ball Slams
Medicine ball slams are one of my personal favorites when it comes to having fun in the gym and developing some insane explosive power.
The medicine ball slam is an intense exercise involving the entire upper body. It is great for butterfly swimmers since the stroke is very powerful and requires a lot of physical power exertion.
The medicine ball slam will teach you to be explosive and to push through when your muscles start to burn and ache. It is also good at developing some extra core strength and stability.
How to perform the medicine ball slam for enhanced power output while swimming butterfly-
- Hold the medicine ball in a comfortable grip in front of you.
- Brace your core and then lift the ball above your head until you feel a stretch in your abdominal muscles.
- Slam it down as hard as possible into the floor and repeat.
- Avoid leaning backward as you race the medicine ball overhead.
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6. Box Jumps
The box jump is another great exercise for developing that explosive power required in swimming butterfly. Additionally, it will assist you in developing stronger and faster turns and starts.
The box jump will involve all of the leg muscles, namely the calves, quads, hamstrings, and glutes. It will also develop a stronger core and improve general athleticism.
How to perform the box jump for increased power-
- Start in front of the plyometric box with your feet in a comfortable jumping stance roughly shoulder-width apart.
- Slightly bend your knees and brace your core as you prepare to jump.
- Then explode up and jump onto the plyometric box while landing in a stable position.
- Make sure you know the correct landing technique to avoid injury.
The push-up will never get old. There will always be some variation of a push in any strength and conditioning or dry-land program. The reason is simple- it is a basic and effective exercise for developing complete upper body strength.
The push-up is one of the best exercises for strengthening the chest, triceps, and shoulders. These are all primary muscle groups used in the butterfly stroke.
How to perform the push-up correctly-
- Go into a standard push-up position while focusing on keeping your entire body as straight and rigid as possible.
- Then lower your chest to the group while extending your elbows backward, not sideways.
- Make sure to keep your body in a straight line as you lower down, touch your chest on the group and explode up and repeat.
Dips are also one of the best exercises for developing stronger tricep, shoulder, and chest muscles. They are definitely more advanced than push-ups and will require you to have dip bars or a bench available.
Typically, they are far more challenging to perform on dip bars, but unfortunately, most people don’t have these at their disposal.
How to perform bench dips for a stronger upper body-
- Grab a nearby bench or any suitable elevated surface, such as a step for example.
- Place your hands in a stable position behind your body and keep your legs in a straight line in front of you with your heels touching the ground.
- Allow your elbows to extend backward as you lower your butt towards the ground.
- Stop just before touching the group and push back up and repeat.
9. Hip Bridge
The hip bridge is an awesome exercise for developing some extra hamstring and hip strength. This is going to assist you in having a stronger upward motion during the butterfly kick cycle.
You can perform the hip bridge on the floor with just your own bodyweight or you can place your feet on an exercise ball while performing them to make it harder. Additionally, you can also try doing them with weights, but I’d only recommend this to more advanced and “dry-land experienced” swimmers.
How to perform the hip bridge for a stronger butterfly kick-
- Lay down in a comfortable position with your back flat and your knees bent.
- Then simply brace your core and push your butt into the air as far as you can.
- Feel the hamstrings extending and then lower yourself back down and repeat.
10. Tricep Pull Downs with a Resistance Band
As mentioned earlier, the triceps also play a critical role in having a good butterfly stroke. Sure, they aren’t quite as important since they are a far smaller muscle group, but at the end of the day, they still play their part.
The resistance band tricep pull down is one of the best exercises for isolating the triceps and increasing their strength and size. I only recommend incorporating it if you feel like you really lack some tricep strength.
How to perform the resistance band tricep pull-down-
- Tie your resistance band somewhere overhead, this can be on a pull-up bar for example.
- Then stand directly underneath the band while holding it with a strong grip.
- Simply pull it down until your arms are fully extended, then pause for a second and slowly allow your arms to bend again as you go into the starting position.
- Repeat for 10 to 15 repetitions for a few sets.
The Science Behind Dryland Training for Butterfly Swimmers
A study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine looked at the effects of dry land strength and aerobic training on performance in youth competitive swimmers.
In total 24 swimmers participated in the study. These swimmers were divided into 2 groups, the experimental group did additional dry-land training, while the controlled group continued with their normal routine swimming training.
The swimmers in the experimental group participated in 8 weeks of dry-land strength and aerobic swimming training designed to increase upper and lower body strength, as well as physical power output.
The study concluded that combined strength and aerobic training allowed for dry land strength developments in swimmers. These strength developments showed a tendency to improve swimming sprint performances.
The research above proves it could be beneficial for us as competitive swimmers to include dry-land training in our training schedules, ultimately allowing us to come closer to reaching our maximum potential in the pool.
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Swim Faster Butterfly with These Dryland Exercises
Dry-land training is a great way to enhance your strength and power capabilities outside of the water, ultimately making you a faster swimmer inside the pool. Try incorporating a few of these exercises into your training routine and do a few sets of 8-15 repetitions for each exercise.
Remember to increase repetitions, sets, weight or intensity as you become stronger and the exercises become easier to perform. This will allow you to continually enhance your strength and become a faster swimmer in the long term.
Lastly, stay consistent with your dry-land training and don’t overdo things. If you feel like recovery is lacking and your performance in the water is suffering, then take a day or two off and focus more on stretching, mobility, and foam rolling.