Butterfly Timing & Coordination

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Is your butterfly stroke letting you down?  Do you suspect that your butterfly timing is to blame?  Coordinating the arm pulls and leg kick with the body movement and breathing is key to cutting through the water smoothly and efficiently. 

Butterfly timing and coordination for beginners to learn

Butterfly timing and coordination cycles should contain 2 leg kicks to 1 arm cycle where the first kick occurs when the arms are forward and the second kick when they have pulled back.  Correct timing and coordination are essential for a smooth easy butterfly stroke.

Butterfly Timing Video Demonstration

When To Kick and When To Pull?

The downbeat of the first leg kick occurs at the catch and down sweep phase.  Both arms will have been in the air during recovery, causing the hips to sink.  The subsequent kick should be strong enough to counter balance this hip movement.

The second downbeat leg kick occurs during the powerful and accelerating upsweep phase of the arm cycle. During this movement, the feet react towards the hands and the strength will contribute towards propulsion.

Breathing can occur every stroke cycle or every other stroke cycle, but should not interrupt the flow of the leg kick and arm pull timing cycles.

A simple breakdown of the arm pull and leg kick coordination for butterfly is:

Kick - Pull - Kick - Recover

The 2 Most Common Butterfly Timing Mistakes

  1. The swimmer attempts to kick and pull at the same time.  There should be a delay from the leg kick as the arms pull, so that the first powerful leg kick assists the arms recovery. 
  2. Beginners learning butterfly tend to miss out the second supporting leg kick as the arms recover.  
Butterfly swimming stroke timing and coordination

A good way to practice and develop the timing for this stroke it to swim using a butterfly leg kick and a breaststroke arm pull.  This uses less energy because breaststroke arms recover under the water surface. 

Therefore it is an ideal way to ensure that there are two leg kicks for each arm pull, where one leg kick assists the body to rise and breathe, and the other smaller leg kick assists the arms to recover.

This exercise is great for establishing a sense of rhythm to the stroke, and if practised well enough, that rhythm can become second nature.

Once this exercise is perfected then the swimmer can reintroduce butterfly arms into the stroke and maintain the timing and coordination pattern.

Click here for more butterfly drills. 

How Does Timing And Coordination Fit In The Whole Stroke?

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Butterfly stroke parts in more detail...

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