Teaching Butterfly Stroke

Many of the teachers at my pool have different qualifications to me, and many of them use woggles when teaching butterfly stroke. I was taught never to use a float for butterfly or it could damage my pupils’ backs. So I just wanted to know what sort of float if any would be appropriate to use when I am teaching butterfly.


There are many schools of thought on the use of floats for teaching butterfly.

The powerful leg kick and undulating body movement cause a small amount of pressure on the lower back even without a float. The use of a float may increase that pressure on the back due to the frontal resistance caused.

Personally my opinion is that it all depends on the size and ability of your pupil. Some pupils will naturally have a powerful leg kick and good undulating body action and therefore be able to learn and perform dolphin kick or even butterfly without the need for a float. This will more than likely be older children whom can already swim the other strokes fairly well.

There are of course those that have never tried butterfly or are very young, smaller and have less natural power. You can argue that it is these pupils that will need to use a float, be it a kick board or a woggle. After all we all had to start somewhere!

It is your judgement call as a swimming teacher and a professional to decide what is in the best interests of your pupils and what aids they need in order to learn. It is your job at the end of the day to ensure that your pupils learn and progress.

If you decide a pupil requires a float to help them learn then you could instruct them to perform the exercise slowly, almost in slow motion. This will encourage them to learn the correct body movement and leg kick without the power and therefore without risk of pressure on their back.

Once they have learnt the correct movement slowly and gently, then they can progress to performing the exercise at the correct pace and with increased power, but without using a float.

It is important to treat your pupils as individuals, particularly when it comes to butterfly stroke. This can be difficult sometimes especially when teaching a group lesson because you may need them to all perform the same exercise simultaneously.

The important thing is to make it fun, which should in the forefront of most swimming lessons. Make your butterfly lessons fun by having ‘dolphin races’ or ‘who can be the best dolphin or mermaid’ competition or even ‘who can do the biggest dolphin kicks’.

The point is to put some fun into what is essentially a very tiring and very difficult stroke to learn, even more so for a child.

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Teaching Butterfly Leg Kick

I would like some help teaching butterfly leg kick. I am trying to teach someone the butterfly, but i just cant figure out how to help them with their kick. Also I was wondering if you know any water exercises that might help strengthen their body to do the butterfly stroke.

It all depends on what exactly the problem is with their butterfly leg kick. Quite often it stems from the undulating body movement, or lack of it!

Butterfly leg kick should be taught as a whole body movement with a wave-like undulation starting at the head and ending at the feet.

Get your swimmer to perform the movement slowly at first and then gradually adding more power to the dive and kick phases. The movement should be a smooth dolphin action through the body. As the head dives down the shoulders and hips follow on and the movement ends with the knees bending and kicking down in a large powerful whip-like action just as the head raises ready to dive again.

Body strength is important and there are a couple of great exercises to try out in the pool. Firstly try performing the kicking action in a supine position (face up). The nature of this exercise places huge demands on the abdominal and core muscles and a few laps of this placed into any lesson or routine will strengthen that area nicely.

Another exercise to try is for strengthening the core muscles and accompanying muscles for the dolphin leg kick is ‘kick and roll’. The swimmer performs the undulating body movement and kick action but has to roll at the same time. So they swim through the water in a corkscrew type movement. This exercise is ideal for strengthening the deep core muscles as well as the inner and outer oblique muscles.

You can always try your swimmer with some fins on. This will help add some strength to their leg kick as well as encourage correct kicking technique. On top of that it they can add some fun and variety to the swimming lesson.

I hope the above has helped and I wish you every success with your swimming and your teaching.

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. Click the link below for more information.

The Simple Butterfly Stroke Book

butterfly stroke technique

Learn what each part of your body should be doing with this clearly presented and well-explained theory and technique.

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Teaching Children To Swim Butterfly

I would like some advice on teaching children to swim butterfly. I am swim teacher studying to become a junior coach for my club. I have got 4 young swimmers between the ages of 11-13 that I have been given charge of so that I can develop my coaching skills.

I am looking to improve their butterfly overall.What practices or techniques could you suggest that I use to improve their butterfly?


Butterfly swimming stroke is without doubt the most physically demanding of the four basic swimming strokes.

Your starting point should always be the undulating wave-like body movement as this is key to the success of the stroke. The movement should originate at the head, move through the whole body with movement from the shoulders and abdominals, to a larger movement of the hips, culminating in a large powerful kick from the legs.

Dolphin kick is a good practice to use, either at the water surface or completely submerged. The exercise can be performed with arms by the sides or outstretched in front with hands together.

Whichever exercises and practices you choose, you will probably find your pupils becoming exhausted quite quickly due to the physical demands of the stroke.

When it comes to the arm action try a walking practice, walking through shallow water slowly working through the simultaneous arm technique. It can then be tried out together with the undulating body movement and leg kick.

The timing and coordination can be practiced using dolphin kick with a breaststroke arm action as this is less physical and breaststroke arms simultaneous just like butterfly arms.

The whole learning process for butterfly swimming stroke can be enhanced and made more fun if you have access to fins. Swimming with fins on the feet greatly adds to the power and enhances the undulation of the body. Also for children it makes the exercises more fun, especially as some may have not experienced swimming wearing fins before.

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. Click the link below for more information.

The Simple Butterfly Stroke Book

butterfly stroke technique

Learn what each part of your body should be doing with this clearly presented and well-explained theory and technique.

$4.99 

Click here for more information

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Nov 19, 2017
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Teaching Butterfly - alternative approach
by: Harry Peacock

See Harry Peacock’s article ‘Teaching Butterfly - where to start and preventing potential faults’ by clicking here.


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