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Many swimmers think that a big pull is the most powerful pull, but this isn’t always true in butterfly.

Here’s something that I see quite a lot when I watch age-group swimmers. They pull all the way back with their arms…and then get stuck. They pull so far back that it’s hard to get their arms and shoulders out of the water for a clean, quick recovery.

Taking a big pull like this may feel powerful, but it can interrupt your body rhythm and actually slow down your timing.

In butterfly, you want to set your rhythm and timing with your body, not with your arms or legs. This usually means that you need to take a shorter, faster pull – a pull that matches your body motion.

When I want to work on a faster armstroke, I think about giving it up in the back. I think about anchoring my hands. Then I sweep them in toward my chest. Then I send them out to the sides, rather than back toward my hips.

Let’s watch this in slow motion. The hands anchor high…then sweep in…then flare out to the sides. My hands are accelerating as they leave the water, and I feel like I’m throwing them toward the other end of the pool.

It may look as if I’m pushing my hands back to my hips, but I’m really thrusting them out to the sides. Here’s a clip where I’m taking as big a pull as I can, and where I’m trying to push back to my hips. See the difference? Here I’m pushing back to the hips.

Here I’m giving it up in the back. Notice that here my body rhythm stays smooth and steady. No interruptions. The rhythm stays quick. I’m giving it up in the back so that I can set my rhythm with my body and set it with the front part of my stroke.