Tag: improve

How To Swim Butterfly With World Class Technique

Butterfly is considered the most difficult stroke to master. If it’s swum with improper form, the stroke is extremely tiring and inefficiently slow. If you’re struggling to improve your butterfly, this article is designed for you!

Butterfly was first introduced as a variation of breaststroke in the 1930’s. Originally, the stroke used today’s butterfly arm movement with a breaststroke kick. Today, this isn’t the case, and it’s one of the reasons people can be resistant to working on improving it.

Butterfly is hard, but it doesn’t have to be. Below are the fundamental elements of a proper butterfly stroke:

Butterfly Timing

Timing is the most important part of the stroke. Every other component is an extension of the stroke’s timing:

1) The Catch:

  • Move the body forward to push water back
  • Fingers should be pointing down, with palms facing back
  • Think about bending the elbows so forearm angles vertically
  • Arms should go wide after the entry and extension

2) The Press:

  • Drive body forward with chin and chest
  • Chin should not be tucked or diving down
  • Pressing too deep can compromise the catch
  • 3 actions happen together:
    1. Press body forward
    2. Hands enter/extend forward
    3. Kick
  • Kick your press and entry forward!

Related: Why You Need a Structured Swim Training Plan

The Kick:

  • Two kicks, equal in power and size
  • 2nd kick (at exit) is the kick most often missed because the knees never bend to set it up
  • Drive knee downward (otherwise feet exit water)
    1. Kick hands forward and press forward
    2. Kick breathe forward

Breathing

Breathing too high or at the wrong time will kill a good stroke. The key is to stay low and breathe forward. Having a late breath is key. You need to focus on pulling forward to breathe. If you watch the best swimmers in the world (Michael Phelps below), you can see his chin just barely grazes over the surface of the water to catch air on the breath. The second kick is critical to drive the body forward.

Hand Entry, Pull Pattern, Recovery

The hand entry should be at shoulder width or just wider. The palms are downward facing and the thumbs should come in first or at the same time as the rest of the fingers. The most important part of the hand entry is being controlled so that you don’t create a lot of splash upon entering the water.

Next you need to focus on pushing the water back and initiating an early vertical forearm with your palms, forearm and rest of your arms. The pull pattern is dictated by how deep someone presses their chest and body. The pull’s finish sets the arms up for the recovery. This sweeping recovery should be controlled.

Breathing Pattern

Generally I believe in breathing every other stroke. If a swimmer has a strong underwater presence (12-15 meters underwater consistently) then it makes sense to breathe every stroke to prepare to go back underwater. Breathing every stroke should never compromise rhythm and mechanics.

Underwater Dolphin Kicks

The underwater dolphin kick has become a major component of swimming butterfly. Even if you do not race in competition, having a good kick technique applies to the overall stroke mechanics in keeping rhythm and tempo. In competition, the world’s best swimmers can spend up to 60% of a race under water (Short Course).

Even in long course competition like at the Olympics, the best swimmers are spending a considerable amount of time underwater. The best way to do this in a race is to work on it in training every single day.

Training Butterfly

It’s critical to learn the proper stroke technique before applying heaving training to your butterfly. This is true for all strokes, but most for the short axis strokes like butterfly and breaststroke. Because you’re already so inefficiently low in the water, it’s even more important to have the right technique and body position.

It’s important to reinforce proper technique. Butterfly is a rhythmic stroke. It’s not about power, it’s about mastering efficiency. The longer the distance, the more the stroke depends on posture, line, balance and rhythm.

Butterfly is a stroke that should be trained at speed. You need to focus on maintaining a higher body position with perfect form. Shorter distances of higher repeats are better than doing continuous butterfly. It’s also good to mix freestyle and butterfly within a distance.

For example, doing 10 x 100s (25 Butterfly, 25 Butterfly Drill, 25 Freestyle, 25 Butterfly), is a good way to break apart the stroke and be aerobically challenging.

These technique insights were gathered from a presentation given by Russell Mark, USA Swimming’s National Team High Performance Consultant . You can watch the full presentation, plus more interviews with other coaches here.

Looking for more butterfly workouts and drills? 

If You Wanna Train Better, Swim with Faster Swimmers

The people you train with have a strong effect on what kind of effort you are going to give at practice today. Here’s some interesting research on why you should choose to swim with the faster swimmers on your team.

Going up and down the black line we can forget about the other swimmers in the lane.

But they are there, sometimes leaving a little earlier than they should, sometimes causing an unnecessary amount of waves, quietly and largely unintentionally influencing our own effort in the water.

The way that our teammates influence us can be so subtle that you don’t even notice.

There are occasions where this can greatly benefit you:

  • When someone in your lane is pushing through the main set, you might be tempted to hop on and push the pace too.
  • When the swimmer in the next lane is looking at you, clearly racing you, it fires up your competitive spirit.
  • When the other swimmers in the lane don’t complain about how hard the set is, it makes you not want to complain too.

If it is greatness you want

There are moments where it can be detrimental to your swimming:

  • The teammate that cheats through the main set, making you think that skimping on a section of the main set maybe isn’t that big of a deal.
  • The swimmer who pulls into the wall from 10m out on kick sets, making you think you need to do the same in order to keep up.
  • The athlete who eats overly-processed garbage after practice, leading you to think, “If they are doing it, why can’t I?”

There’s a popular saying attributed to personal development guru Jim Rohn that asserts that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

Looking around at the swimmers and people you fill your life with, can you say that they are bringing out the best in you?

Are you bringing out the best in them?

Choose Your Lane with Performance in Mind

Here’s an example of just how much of an effect the performance others have on what we do.

One fun little research experiment looked to see how our effort is influenced by the people we work out with.

A group of about 90 college students did a 20-minute workout and were told to keep it at 60-70% of max intensity. The students were split into three groups: one group worked out with someone very fit, one group did their session alongside someone not very fit, and the third did their workout solo.

Could something as simple as working out with someone who was in better shape influence how we hard we go?

You bet your water-logged butt.

When participants worked out near “fit” people, they stomped the gas on their effort, with their average heart rate far higher compared to those worked out near less fit people, with the difference particularly profound in the men: (133 BPM vs 119 BPM for the ladies, 124 BPM vs 99 BPM for the men).

The study fits into what we know (even if it’s just superficially)—that our effort tends to go up or down depending on who is next to us. Even when instructed to hold a specific level of intensity the participants ended up trying to mimic and match what the exercise partner was doing.

Side note: Those who worked out alone reported feeling calmer and more relaxed compared to the those who got partnered up—regardless of intensity. Maybe something to think about when you need a chill session at practice, or maybe even during your taper.

The study showed that if you want to get more from your workouts, surrounding yourself with people who are crushing is going to help push you to bigger heights.

What lane are you going choose at practice today?

At swim practice the lane we end up in is often chosen with less-than-ideal reasons:

There’s a lot of value in swimming with athletes who are faster than you. They are more likely to bring the best out of you. These are the moments where your limits and perceived notions of what you are capable of get redrawn.

Don’t avoid them. Chase them fervently.

If it’s improvement you want, choose to spend more training time with the swimmers who are going to push you and make you better.

Source: YourSwimBook

Author: Olivier Poirier-Leroy

TWO GREAT PEARLS FOR A FASTER BACKSTROKE

Courtesy of Gary Hall Sr., 10-time World Record Holder, 3-time Olympian, 1976 Olympic Games US Flagbearer and The Race Club co-founder.

The fundamentals of backstroke are the same as for freestyle. However, the priority of those fundamentals differ for backstroke and there are certain nuances of backstroke that differ from freestyle.

Of all four strokes, backstroke is not the fastest stroke, but it is the most efficient stroke. That means that there is less change of speed in backstroke than in any other stroke. There are two principal reasons for that. First, the coupling of the body rotation comes at the very end of the pulling motion, which is the weaker part of the pull, as opposed to the stronger middle of the pull in freestyle. The result is the propulsive force of the arm pull remains more constant in backstroke.

The second reason that the velocity of the backstroker is more uniform has to do with the kick. When a swimmer is on his or her stomach, the down kick is typically much more propulsive than the up kick. However, when on the back, the weaker down kick becomes very propulsive because the foot pushes down against a larger vortex and gravity helps assist in the downward motion of the foot. As a result, the propulsive forces of the down and up kicks become much more even and the resultant velocity is more constant.

When it comes to taking advantage of these two nuances of backstroke, here are two important pearls in your technique that will help.

1)      On the backstroke arm recovery, throw the arm and hand hard to the water. Accentuating the speed of the hand entry on the recovery also has the effect of accentuating the body rotation. This will help maintain the swimmer’s speed toward the end of the pulling motion.

2)      Work the down kick hard on backstroke. During both the underwater dolphin kick and the backstroke, it is very important to press downward vigorously with the sole or bottom of the foot to take advantage of the large vortex formed from the stronger up kick. If a swimmer does this, he or she can get more propulsion and speed from the weaker down kick than from the stronger up kick. This downward motion of the feet will also help keep the swimmer’s speed more constant.

This week our Race Club members in Lane 2 will get classroom instruction on how the fundamentals of backstroke differ from those of freestyle. Race Club members in lane 3 will see a great dryland technique from world champion Junya Koga on how to teach swimmers the proper backstroke pulling motion.