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An efficient stroke will significantly reduce wasted energy output through less drag in the water and a cleaner execution of hand and arm entry and recovery. When considering a swimming technique for any stroke, the analysis should follow the format described below, in this order:

  • 1. Leg kick
  • 2. Arm cycle
  • 3. Timing
  • 4. Breathing

The leg kick will control the body position in the water, while the arm cycle will provide the propulsive force. The timing between the two is vital to the efficiency of the given stroke to provide a greater speed through the water with minimum wasted energy.

Finally, the breathing technique should be analysed to ensure that when you breathe, your overall technique is not disrupted in any way that would cause a breakdown of efficiency.


This is a stroke where the timing of the kick and the arm cycle is paramount. An inadequate butterfly technique can waste much energy because of the double-arm movement on recovery and propulsion and the double-leg kick. Practice makes permanent, and the more efficient you can make this stroke, the more power you will be able to generate where needed.

The arm cycle


Both arms break the water simultaneously, hand and forearms first, the arms swing outwards, elbows slightly flexed as they continue to swing around and meet the head, thumb and fingers forward.

Entry & Catch

Fingers first, the hands cup and catch the water simultaneously in preparation for the out sweep (the big kick finishes).

Out sweep

Together, the arms press laterally, and the arms begin to flex at the elbow (the small kickstarts).

In sweep

As the arms continue to flex, the hands turn medially and press towards the body (in small kick finishes).


As the hands come close to the body, they press towards the feet, fully extending the arms at the elbow in preparation for the quick "flick" out of the water and recovery (the big kickstarts).

Article Reference

The information on this page is adapted from Coulson (2000)[1] with the kind permission of Electric Word plc.


  1. COULSON, M. (2000) Here's an overview of the basics of technique for all strokes and specific training needs. Peak Performance, 135, p. 6-8

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (2003) Butterfly [WWW] Available from: [Accessed