The butterfly is a swimming stroke swum on the chest, with both arms moving symmetrically, accompanied by the butterfly kick (also known as the "dolphin kick"). While other styles like the breaststroke, front crawl, or backstroke can be swum adequately by beginners, the butterfly is a more difficult stroke that requires good technique as well as strong muscles. It is the newest swimming style swum in competition, first swum in 1933 and originating out of breaststroke. The 1956 Summer Olympics were the first Olympic games where the butterfly was swum as a separate competition, 100 m (women) and 200 m (men).
TECHNIQUE : The butterfly stroke is one of the most difficult swimming strokes because it requires precise technique in addition to good rhythm. It is arguably the most aesthetically pleasing stroke, a balance between power and grace. The “fly” as it is affectionately called by swimmers, requires two dolphin kicks followed by simultaneous arm motion.
- Body position: Keep your body flat and lie facing down in the water with your body kept in line with the water surface.
- Arm movement: Similar to the front crawl, there are three steps in the arm movement - the Catch, Pull and Recovery.
- Catch: With arms out straight, shoulder width apart and palms facing downwards, press down and out at the same time with both hands.
- Pull: Pull hands towards your body in a semicircular motion with palms facing outwards, keeping your elbows higher than your hands.
- Recovery: Once both hands reach the upper thighs at the end of the pull, sweep both arms out and over the water simultaneously and throw them forwards into the starting position. Make sure your palms are facing outwards so your thumbs enter the water first.
- Breathing Technique: Breathing can be challenging as it has to be timed and completed quickly. The correct time to take a breath is during the start of the recovery phase when the arms are just starting to come out of the water. Raise your chin above the water whilst looking straight making sure not to turn to the side.
- Leg Action: With both legs together and toes pointed, kick downwards at the same time. The first kick is a small one to balance your body position after your arms enter the water. The second kick is a big one, performed during the recovery phase when your arms are over the water. The big kick is to continue to propel your body forward as momentum is lost during recovery.
- Move your body in a wave-like fashion: Be one with the wave. Your whole body should have an undulating S-shape as you swim. Similar to dancing, let your instincts take over and go with the flow of the motion. If you manage to pin down your rhythm and synchronize both body movements with your limbs, your strokes will be more efficient and less tiring.
FINA butterfly stroke rules:
- From the beginning of the first arm stroke after the start and each turn, the body shall be kept on the breast. Under water kicking on the side is allowed. It is not permitted to roll onto the back at any time.
- Both arms shall be brought forward together over the water and brought backward simultaneously throughout the race
- All up and down movements of the legs must be simultaneous. The legs or the feet need not be on the same level, but they shall not alternate in relation to each other. A breaststroke kicking movement is not permitted.
- At each turn and at the finish of the race, the touch shall be made with both hands simultaneously, at, above or below the water surface.
- At the start and at turns, a swimmer is permitted one or more leg kicks and one arm pull under the water, which must bring him to the surface. It shall be permissible for a swimmer to be completely submerged for a distance of not more than 15 metres after the start and after each turn. By that point, the head must have broken the surface. The swimmer must remain on the surface until the next turn or finish.