= a difficult swimming-stroke to swim or impractical
 = means that this swimming-stroke never descripted clearly
 = the rating of the swimming-stroke (a rating of 8 is good to swim)
    PS: Swimming-strokes are derived based on their visual resemblance.





This swimming-stroke looks like the breaststroke except that the body position is diagonal. The arms are brought in front of the body under water where the trailing arm makes a wide half pull-through and the leading arm a normal half pull-through.

The legstroke is a modified frog-kick and the combination of the arms and legs is long. Moreover, a long gliding-phase is done. This is a very nice and comfortable swimming-stroke to swim. That is why we rated this swimming-stroke to 9 on a scale of 10.

Click on the film to see an animation of this swimming-stroke (opened in a pop-up)...


Looks like the breaststroke. However, this swimming-stroke is swum with a particular legstroke, namely known as a vertical noshi-legstroke instead of a frog-kick.

One fragment of the Ryowa-Noshi

Looks like the breaststroke but it has a threestroke legstroke.


This swimming-stroke looks like the breaststroke but the body position is diagonal and the head is also held diagonal into the water. The arms are almost the same as with the breaststroke except that they are pulled through much further back. The legstroke is a modified frog-kick and the combination of the arms and legs is short. There is also a gliding-phase involved but this is only a short one.

This is a simple swimming-stroke but not a pretty one.


Body position :
Armstroke :
Legstroke :
On the breast
Simultaneous pull-over of the arms
Dolphin-kick (or frog-kick)

The armstroke
The legstroke
The movement of the head
Frequently made mistakes with the butterfly


The butterfly is a relatively young swimming-stroke. The butterfly stems from the breaststroke, because the contramovement of the arms are executed above the waterline. The pull-through of the arms was extended in the direction of the hips, while initially the legstroke of the breaststroke was maintained.

The differences between the breaststroke and the butterfly became bigger, just as the differences between the times. That is why they decided to seperate these two swimming-strokes and the butterfly as a single swimming-stroke became a fact. This happened in 1952.

The Hungarian swimmer Tumpek was the first one who practised the dolphin legstroke. Because of this the butterfly became a more continuous stroke. The butterfly is, after the frontcrawl, the fastest swimming-stroke. The removal is less continuous than the frontcrawl because of the simultaneous arm-movement. Also the position in the water is less ideal, because the body moves too much in vertical directions.

The function of the head in the butterfly is very important. The relatively extreme head-movement with regard to the trunk is very important. The body needs to follow this head-movement sufficiently to make the changing hollow-round-position feel allright. The timing of the head-movement on the arm-movement is decisive.

The timing of the supporting leg-action has to be suitable for the hollow-round-position out of the armstroke and the head-movement. Butterfly is the only swimming-stroke at which the back plays an important role in the swim-movement. At the movement opportunities of the shoulders, neck and back are set high requirements. A relatively large physical strength is required; because of this the butterfly is unsuitable for long distances.


The armstroke
The arm-movement contributes in large amounts to the speed you swim:

  • There can be brought a lot of power in it, because you pull your arms through at the same time.
  • The pull-through is a long movement, from far in front of the head to close to the hips.
  • The damsurfaces can be placed in a favourable position, which is similar to the arm-movement of the frontcrawl.
  • The pull-through is completed with both arms at the same time, through which deviations in a straight line are exceptional.
  • The pull-over is above the waterline, through which the resistance is reduced to a minimum.

The armstroke can be divided in the following phases:

  1. Put in-phase
  2. (Short) glide-phase
  3. Pull-phase
  4. Push-phase
  5. The lash out
  6. Pull-over of the arms

Put in




Push-phase to a pull-over

    A swimmer's below view.
    The underwater-phases of the butterfly are shown.


1. Put in
The put-in takes place on shoulderline or something out of there. Just like the frontcrawl the arms are put-in on ¾ of their total length, at which the little finger is pointed upwards. The touching of the watersurface is passive, but the start of a specific bearing is an active process. The elbows are positioned high.

2. Glide-phase
At the butterfly, the glide-phase is meant, just like at the other strokes, to choose the right position for the hands (the damsurfaces). This is the movement that the hands search for the begin of the pull-phase and in addition the lowering of the shoulders is started.

3. Pull-phase
Right after the glide-phase the pull-phase follows, in which the first movement is pointed a bit sideways, with other words they move away from the shoulderline. During the pull-phase the arms are bent more and more in the elbows and in addition the direction of movement is pointed to the so called medianline (= the vertical line that divides your body into two equal parts). At the end of the pull-phase the damsurfaces (arms and hands) stand perpendicular on the direction of movement and there is an angle of about 90 degrees in the elbows and the hands are under the shoulders. This is all similar to the frontcrawl.

4. Push-phase
At this moment the pull-phase will pass into the push-phase. In the push-phase the elbow will be stretched gradually, which is the same with the frontcrawl. This movement is pointed to the back. At the end of the push-phase an acceleration will occur. The arms will never be stretched completely.

5. The Lash out
The elbows will have left the water when the hands finish the last part of the push-phase. The hands will leave the water via the hips, after they have finished the last part of the pull-through to the back (with regard to the direction of swimming). The palms of the hand are pointed to the back (because of the acceleration in the push-phase), after which the backside of the hand is turned to the water quickly.

6. Pull-over
The pull-over (also called contra-phase) takes place with almost straight, relaxed arms. A light bow in the elbows is positive for this relaxing. It is a wide, flat pull-over. Near the shoulderline the turning will be continued, so that the palm of the hand is turned to the water. The head is already in the water before the arms are put in the water.


The arms are almost straight with a light bow in the elbows.

The palms of the hand turn during the contra-phase to the watersurface again.

The head starts the move; in other words: the head is in the water before the arms start their move.

The legstroke
The function of the legs is both stabilising and damming. The butterfly's legmovement is a succession of the up and down movement of both legs at the same time. The move consists of an upbeat and a downbeat, that are started out of the hips.


The downbeat begins out of the upper legs/ hips at the moment the feet reach the highest point. An active bow takes place in the hipjoint. The upper legs reach their lowest point, when the calfs (or lower part of the legs) have not begun their downward movement yet; the bow in the knees is now the largest. After the downward movement of the upper legs follows a downward movement of the calfs. The now following move is executed like a lash. The feet are relaxed. During the last part of the downbeat of the calfs, the upper legs already begin with the upbeat. The feet reach their lowest point at the end of the downbeat, simultaneously with the full stretching of both legs.

The strength of the lifting effect of the legmovement at the butterfly is much bigger than the frontcrawl's legmovement. The upbeat takes twice as much time than the downbeat. The upbeat is an unbended movement. The legs go up out of the hips and they are stretced because of the resistance of the water.

Because the movement is executed with both legs at the same time, the hips go upwards during the downbeat. At the upbeat, at which the legs are stretched again because of the water resistance, the hips go down. So the position of the body changes continuously from hollow into round and back again. The body's position is waving. We can discover two moments on which an active damming legmovement starts:

  1. At the start of the arm-movement and 
  2. Just before the swing of the arms, at the end of the push-phase.

Ad 1 :
At this moment the speed is minimal, so the legs serve as a primary support for the forward speed. In addition, there is much frontal resistance and at the moment the hips go upwards.

Ad 2 :
The speed of the arms is at this moment the largest. The hands leave the body and the reaction on the body is the descending of the flat position.

The breathing must be well fit in in the stroke-rhythm, to interrupt as few as possible. A well chosen moment to inhale is when the shoulders reach their highest point and a small movement of the head is enough to bring the mouth above the waterline. This moment is at the end of the push-phase and at the beginning of the contra-phase (pull-over).

The breath out takes place during the put-in, pull- and push-phase. Inhaling occurs via the mouth and breathing out via the mouth and nose. It is recommended to breath after every 2 armstrokes. As a result of this way of breathing, the frontal resistance is reduced to a minimum.


The movement of the head
In the pull-phase the head starts to go upwards little by little and is fully raised during the inhaling. The head is brought between the arms again halfway the pull-over, so that a good streamline makes a good put-in possible. In this manner the head supports the waving movement, which is essential for the butterfly.


Frequently made mistakes with the butterfly

  • The head moves too little.
  • The head is raised too early to inhale.
  • The legs are stretched in the upbeat as well as in the downbeat.
  • The legs are bent in the knees in stead of the hips.
  • Pulling through with stretched arms.
  • Dragging through the water with the arms.
  • A stop at the hips (the waving movement is interrupted).



Copyright © Stefan de Best