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Rhythm and timing are so important in butterfly.
When you get the rhythm and timing just right, it can feel like you’re FLYING through the water.
If you get it a little bit wrong, you can feel like an eagle with a broken wing….
When I want to work on my timing and rhythm, I think about taking TWO KICKS PER STROKE. Let’s watch this in slow motion.
I kick here…as my hands enter the water….
And I kick again here…as my hands exit the water.
I kick my hands in….
And kick my hands out….
Two kicks per stroke.
Let’s look even closer.
Let’s watch that from under water.
As my hands enter the water, I kick DOWN with my feet and my hips go UP.
During the pull, my feet go UP and actually DISAPPEAR, which means they’re just above the surface. I try to get them just above the water so that I get maximum power on the SECOND kick, which happens here.
The second kick starts when my hands are at my hips. I kick down and accelerate my hands into the recovery.
Notice that my hips don’t go up quite so much with the second kick, and that my feet don’t disappear this time – they’re just below the surface.
Let’s watch the timing again. Kick the hands in…kick the hands out.
At clinics, I sometimes see swimmers – especially younger swimmers – taking just one kick per armstroke, as this swimmer is doing.
I also see swimmers who take two kicks per stroke, but who take the second kick when the hands are still out front, rather than when the hands are at the hips.
If you have trouble with your timing, or if you take just one kick per stroke, I recommend that you wear some fins. Fins are great during the learning phase for butterfly. They can give you just a little bit more power, and will help you develop the correct body motion and rhythm for a smooth stroke.
When you practice butterfly, it’s important not to let yourself struggle. It may make you stronger, but all you’ll be doing is practicing bad technique. Wear fins until you develop good technique.
Another trick during the learning phase is to take just two or three PERFECT strokes of fly per length…and then switch to freestyle. This is a lot more effective than taking 9 or 10 IMPERFECT strokes.
Let’s take another look at the kick. As I take my two kicks, I think about kicking from the sternum, not from the knees.
I think about using my entire body for the kick – not just my legs.
But I’m still thinking about TWO KICKS PER STROKE.
If I swim with my entire body, I have more power than if I use just my legs. It lets my body flow more smoothly through the water – more like a real dolphin.
I try to set up a rhythm with my body – a two-kicks-per-stroke rhythm – and then fit the arms and the legs into the rhythm.
One more thing to notice about the kick is that the toes should be pointed. This reduces drag, and helps you get maximum range and power from your kick.
Here’s a drill that I like to use for rhythm. It’s real simple, and it’s called Kick Four, Swim One.
Remember: Take two kicks per stroke, but make sure you kick from the sternum and use your entire body, not just your legs.