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Having good body position is important in every stroke, but it’s really important in butterfly because it sets up the pull.
For me, good body position is having the chest go deep and leaving the hands and elbows near the surface as my hands enter. I think about getting a quick catch with high elbows right at the beginning of the pull.
The first thing I want to do is to hold some water by sculling out a little bit and keeping the elbows high. I try to hold every bit of water that I can, coming from a high elbow.
Some people will say, “Pull as wide as you can and start with a wide pull.” But what I think about is keeping a more narrow pull.
The easiest way to describe my pull is that it’s like a keyhole or an “S” shape that I draw under my body. As the hands come down past my chest, bellybutton and hips, I want them to be closer together rather than far apart.
A narrow pull with the hands close together under my body helps me finish the stroke with more power.
But no matter how wide your pull is, the key point is to start with the hands and elbows up near the surface so you get a great connection and so you can hang on to more water.
At the finish of the pull I think about pressing through beyond the hips. My hands don’t necessarily exit way beyond my hips, but that’s what it feels like they’re doing.
I try to feel like I’m pressing all the way through the stroke -- as if I were trying to flip water at the end of the pull. The flip may end up going OUT rather than back, but I like to feel that I’m pulling all the way through and really extending my arms at the end.
When I recover my arms over the water, my goal is to relax the arms as much as possible. I try to keep the arms close to the surface with palms back and thumbs angled down toward the water. “Relaxed” is the key word.
I like the hands to enter about shoulder width apart. This lets me press down on the chest and it gives me a good body position to start the next pull.