Land Exercises To Improve Butterfly Stroke

Could you recommend any land exercises to improve butterfly stroke? My daughter is on a High School Varsity swim team, and her butterfly stroke is good, except for needing to improve her leg kick. I am a personal trainer and would love to do some land work with her. Are there any exercises that could help improve her speed?

A lot will depend on which aspects of her butterfly stroke need improving. You say she needs to improve her leg kick but improving leg kick alone will not necessarily help increase her speed.

It's All In The Body Movement

Butterfly leg kick is the result of the undulating wave action of the body , which initiates at the top of the head.


The main component of that undulation is the movement of the hips. The legs complete the movement with a powerful contraction of the hamstrings, followed instantly by the quadriceps.

Gain Power From Plyometrics

Regarding land-based training, increasing power in the legs can be achieved with plyometric training. As a personal trainer, you do not need me to explain the science and techniques behind plyometric training.

Plyometric squats and any two-footed jumpings will help increase power in the quads and hamstrings. Plyometric lunges and bounding will be useful, but as butterfly leg kick is a simultaneous leg kick, two-footed exercises will be more specific and relevant.

Core Training Adds To The Power

The abdominal muscles play a huge part in the undulating wave action and, more specifically, in the powerful hip movement.

Be sure to train the core muscles using crunches and twists. Ensure they are balanced with appropriate lower back exercises to strengthen the erector spinal muscles, such as frontal raises.

Flexibility Training Is Essential

In addition to all of this, take time to focus on flexibility. Whilst power and speed are important in butterfly; flexibility is equally important. Adequate movement of the head, neck, spine, hips, knees and ankles is vital to execute a smooth-flowing movement through the water. Stretch the appropriate muscles and use PNF stretching on any muscle groups that are tighter than they should be.

All of the advice I have detailed above is general advice and might be appropriate to your daughter butterfly swimming stroke, without seeing her swim. It is, therefore, vitally important that you consult with her Swim Coach before you undertake any land-based exercises. Whilst they may seem appropriate and helpful, there is always the chance that you could do more harm than good.

With you as a personal trainer working with her Swim Coach, I do not doubt that her butterfly stroke will improve and her speed will increase.

Check Each Part Of Your Basic Butterfly

Basic Pool Based Exercises

My popular book How To Swim Butterfly contains over 16 separate swimming exercises to help all parts of butterfly stroke, including the body position and leg kick. You can download it, print out the parts you need and take them to your pool to try out.

The Simple Butterfly Stroke Book

The easy to follow guide to how to swim butterfly stroke
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