Perfect Butterfly Technique: How to Do It the Proper Way


Considered the most challenging stroke to master, the butterfly would require both your arms to power the movement, aside from the dolphin kick. However, it is noteworthy that it is not always about strength, it is also about rhythm and timing. To add, if this stroke is performed improperly, it can be extremely inefficient and tiring.

In this post, we will be discussing how the perfect butterfly technique is done. It may require a lot of practice to master this technique but when you have successfully done it the proper way, it can be the most aesthetically pleasing and rewarding swimming styles, especially when used in competition. If you are struggling to improve your butterfly stroke, then this article is for you.

The Perfect Butterfly Technique

The butterfly is arguably the most difficult stroke, but it does not have to be. Below you will find the important elements of doing the perfect butterfly technique:


  • The Catch: Timing is a very important part of the butterfly stroke. To master the stroke, you need to move your body forward to be able to push the water back. Make sure that your fingers are pointing down, with your palms facing back. You may also bend your elbows so that your forearm is angled vertically. Lastly, ensure that your arms are wide right after entry and extension. 
  • The Press: To perfect the butterfly technique, try driving your body forward with your chest and chin. The chin, particularly, should not be diving down or tucked. In addition, pressing too deep will only compromise the catch, mentioned above. Overall, these three actions happen altogether: pressing your body forward while your hands extend and enter forward, and kicking. Finally, kick your press while you enter forward. 


Mastering the butterfly technique would also entail you to perform two kicks, which are both equal in terms of size and power. It should be noted, however, that the second kick while you exit is the kick that is most often missed just because our knees do not bend to set the kick up. Then, you need to drive your knee downward.




Breathing is another crucial part of performing the butterfly technique. Breathing, when done at the wrong time or if done too high, would only kill a good stroke. What you can do is to breathe forward while staying low. To add, you would also find it advantageous if you have a late breath. You also need to keep your focus on pulling forward to be able to breathe.

If you would notice when watching the best swimmers in the world, you will see that their chin only barely grazes the water’s surface to breathe. Plus, take note of your second kick, as it is a critical part of driving your body forward.

Pull Pattern, Hand Entry, and Recovery

When doing the hand entry, make sure that it is within shoulder width. Your palms should be facing downward while your thumbs come in first or just the same time with the rest of your fingers. Probably the most critical part of the hand entry is that you feel controlled. This allows you not to create a lot of splashes when you enter the water.

The next thing you need to focus on is pushing the water back while you initiate an early vertical forearm using your palms, as well as your arms and forearm. The pull pattern is often determined by how deep you press your body and chest. Lastly, the pull pattern’s finish will set your arms up into recovery, which should be controlled.

Breathing Pattern

It is a common knowledge among swimmers that breathing is necessary every other stroke. If you have a strong presence underwater, which may take 12 to 15 meters consistently, it would only make sense that you breathe every other stroke. This prepares you to go back into the water. However, it is noteworthy that this breathing pattern should never compromise your mechanics and rhythm.

Dolphin Kicks

Another important part of swimming butterfly is learning how to perform underwater dolphin kicks. Even if you are swimming for leisure, having a great kick technique will apply to your overall mechanics, especially when you keep track of your tempo and rhythm. 

However, when competing, the best swimmers spend as much as 60% of the race being underwater. While that may be the case for short course competition, the best swimmers spend a considerable amount of time being under the water, just like in the Olympics, considered a long course competition. What you can do is to work on perfecting the underwater dolphin kick every day.


It is very important that you learn the proper stroke technique first before you apply any kind of heavy training to your butterfly. This is the proper way to do, even with short axis strokes like breaststroke and butterfly. Another thing to remember is that because you are already inefficiently low underwater, it is even more important that you have the right body position and technique.

It is also deemed vital that you reinforce the proper technique, as the butterfly is a rhythmic stroke. It is a common misconception that this technique is all about power. However, trust us when we say that it’s all about perfecting your efficiency. In addition, the longer distance you swim, the more your stroke would depend on your line, balance, posture, and rhythm.

When training the butterfly, you should also be aware that it should be trained at speed. You also need to keep your focus on maintaining a high body position with the perfect form. In case you didn’t know, swimming short distances repetitively are always better than doing continuous butterfly. It would also be good if you mix butterfly with freestyle within a distance.

For instance, you may do 10 x 100s, which may consist of 25 butterfly strokes, 25 butterfly drill strokes, 25 freestyle strokes, and 25 butterfly strokes. It would already be a great way to break apart your stroke while being aerobically challenging.


Now that we have reached the end of this article, it is now up to you to further your butterfly stroke skills in the water. While we have provided the most important parts on how to perform the perfect butterfly technique, it is still up to your determination and patience to do it the proper way. The butterfly is considered one of the most challenging strokes, so it would be quite rewarding on your part if you are able to do it, especially when you add everyday training to your practice.

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