Breaststroke technique has evolved in recent years as swimmers look for ways to cut down on drag.
Swimmers competing in Individual Medley events must master all four main swimming strokes if they want to win the gold medal. Although most swimmers train during the bulk of their workout perfecting the breathing and timing of the freestyle to crank up mileage and endurance, the other three strokes may present various amounts of difficulty because they use different muscles. Butterfly expends the most energy of the three, and is usually considered the hardest stroke by those endeavoring to master it.
The Elusive Butterfly
Swimming butterfly uses 27 different muscles. Multiply that by two, because you are using the muscles on each side of the body, and you've got more than 50 muscles dogging along to make your stroke effective. A breakdown of any one of those muscles results in a stroke that will leave you exhausted and sore. Strong shoulders, glutes and core are essential to create a powerful butterfly stroke, and flexibility in your ankles is crucial to execute a smooth, gliding movement. The glutes are the central power behind the stroke, working in union with legs and abs to propel the body forward and raise the arms above the water to position them for their stroking motion.
Free the Butterfly
Take the difficulty out of swimming the butterfly with a multifold approach to training. Break down the stroke with kicking and arm drills that position your body correctly through each phase of movement. The repetitive action creates muscle memory that will become second nature as you practice and help with the timing of your stroke and breathing. Build core and glute strength with kicking and land exercises. Finally, put it all together in the water.
Avoid Butterfly Kisses - Just Breathe the Air
Catching a face full of water as you're coming up for breath isn't unusual while mastering the stroke, and that lungful of water is a good instructor for tweaking the timing of your breath.
Before swimming the butterfly during your workout routine, warm up your core and legs with a few laps of dolphin kicks without a kickboard. Touch your upper thighs with your thumbs, and keep them there while taking quick, short breaths when you feel the need to come up for air. The repetition helps your body create muscle memory for the proper timing to breathe when you add in arms later in your workout. Use more than just your legs as you kick, using your chest, hips and then your legs in an undulating motion.
Become an Iron Butterfly
The difficulty of butterfly can wear you out before you even make it 25 yards. Although one way of building up your endurance is to keep humping along lap after lap until you're exhausted, targeting muscle groups strategically both in the water and out is a more effective tactic.
In the Water
Practice your dolphin kick on your back using a kickboard. Hold the kickboard out of the water to build up core muscles.
Flip over on your belly for some face-down kicking. Extend your arms with the kickboard out in front of you, and keep your head down except to breathe. Try to keep your shoulders still while exaggerating the undulating movement of the chest while kicking. This position helps build the range of motion needed in the shoulder for an effective fly.
On the Land
Focus on yoga, stretching, Pilates and other exercises that build flexibility and strength in the shoulders glutes and core. Planks, squats, lunges and two-footed jumps are exercises you can do at home without having to go to the gym or buy any specialized equipment.