This is the first in a 6 month series of specific technique focus. We will cover all 4 strokes, starts and turns. Let's start with the coach's favourite, butterfly. The below are just some of the main points of general butterfly swimming. There is far more to swimming butterfly well and fast - just try and understand the below and maybe even have a practice of the movements in a mirror at home!!
Butterfly is all about timing the movements of your body, arms and legs so that you flow through the water rather than fighting against it. You should all know the worm drill, where you try to wiggle your way down the pool on top of the water with your hands by your side. This drill is a great base for butterfly swimming if it is done correctly. All those of you in lane 3 and above will have seen 'Frank & Bob' demonstrate this properly! Focus on keeping the wiggling going as you take your breath and try not to bend your knees too much. If you stand behind someone doing this drill you should see their shoulder come out of the water followed by their hips and then their feet. It's also important not to dive too deep or try to lift up too high out of the water.
The arm action on butterfly is where most young swimmers struggle. The misconception is that you need to have powerful shoulders to have good fly technique... this is not true!! You need your hips and legs to set a good rhythm, your arms simply need to follow this rhythm! The best way to achieve this is to always focus on the tempo of your kicks during all fly work. If you train your hips and legs to kick correctly then adding in the arm action will be a lot easier.
Once you have developed a good base of leg work it's time to add the arms. Again this is all about timing rather than power. Don't forget that your arms are just following what your legs are doing. As your legs kick down, your hand enter the water as far out in front of your shoulders as possible. At this point your hips should be up higher in the water than your shoulders. Now the legs and shoulders begin to lift and the pull begins. As the hands start the pull the shoulders begin to lift up and the hips sink slightly, if taking a breath this is when you start to lift your head. During the second downwards kick of the stroke the hands should accelerate down towards the hips and the swimmer should shoot forwards right over the surface (keeping the hips high). The arms now relax, stay straight and swing back over the water. If the swimmer has not kept their hips up high the relaxed recovery of the arms will be hard or impossible. As the arms swing forwards over the water the head and shoulders begin to drop while the hips come up. The head MUST enter the water before the hands get past the shoulders. If this does not happen then the swimmer loses the ability to lift their hips, this makes the next stroke cycle weaker.