By Matt Barbini//National Team High Performance Consultant | Monday, November 17, 2014
Within each stroke, technical variation between individuals is a given, and butterfly is no exception. For the most part, no two athletes’ techniques are the same, and there is no necessarily “right” way to swim fast.
For example, the depth of your press, sharpness of your catch, and width of your pull will all be determined to some extent by genetic characteristics such as flexibility and shoulder mobility. This can make teaching and learning butterfly challenging; what works for one athlete might not work for another.
So, when swimmers and coaches ask certain individually-specific questions about butterfly technique, rather than saying, “It depends,” I try to help them focus on aspects of the stroke that are simple, repeatable, and universal (mostly).
How wide should my entry be, and where should I start my catch?
In general, I advocate for a narrower entry, but swimmers with a deep press may find themselves naturally entering and catching wider. The key is not where your hands enter, but how well you establish your catch. See below for examples of two very different entry and catch positions.
What should my pull pattern look like?
Again, this is dependent on certain physical characteristics. However, regardless of your pull pattern, make sure you put yourself in position to maximize the power phase of the stroke as shown in the picture below.
How much should I bend my knees when I kick?
This will vary based on the race distance, your tempo, and the strength of your kick. Regardless, you should have two kicks of the same size and make sure to finish each of your kicks to full extension.
The point here is that each individual’s technique is probably going to be a little bit different. The challenge for coaches is to understand those differences and help their swimmers focus on the technical elements that can lead to success within the parameters of their individual physiologies.