Fast butterfly is about more than a powerful stroke. Your start and turns also play a big role in how quickly you move through the water.

If you slack off on these aspects of your butterfly swim, you’re adding a ton of extra time when you don’t need to. Refine your technique and watch your butterfly transform!

Butterfly Start Tips

Diving into the pool for a butterfly race is pretty much the same as it is for a freestyle or breaststroke race. You’ll get up on the block and use your legs to explode forward, entering the water in streamline. A few do’s and don’ts for your start:

  • DO grip the front of the block with your hands. Use your hands to pull yourself forward slightly before your legs push you the rest of the way. 
  • DON’T lean back when you’re on the block. You don’t want to slingshot yourself forward. Instead, keep your hips right over your feet, and imagine you’re a coiled spring, waiting to explode!
  • DO enter the water with a tight streamline. The tighter you can make your body, the more momentum you’ll carry into the water. 
  • DON’T forget to dolphin kick off the start! You can go up to 15 meters underwater in streamline before you start swimming. So maximize your underwater dolphin kick off the start and you’ll swim fewer strokes overall. Try for at least three to five dolphin kicks.
  • DO find a foot position that’s comfortable. Most swimmers prefer the “track start,” with their feet staggered, but starting with your feet parallel works, too.
  • DON’T breathe right off the start. Try to take two to three strokes before lifting your head to breathe. This helps you establish a solid stroke rhythm right away.

Get more swimming start tips here!

How to do a Butterfly Turn

In butterfly, you will do an open turn instead of a flip turn. Before we dive into your technique, there’s one major thing you need to know: ALWAYS touch the wall with two hands at the same time! If you don’t you’ll get disqualified in a race. 

Related: Do These 2 Drills to Fix Your Butterfly Pull

After you touch the wall, avoid pulling yourself up and out of the pool. Instead, try to stay low and keep your body tight. The goal is to turn around and push off the wall with as little splash as possible, as quickly as possible. It can be helpful to think of your turn in four steps:

  1. Touch the wall with two hands
  2. Elbow your brother: Bring one elbow back, as you start to tuck your knees into your chest. Start to turn your body toward this bent elbow.
  3. Call your mother: As you turn toward your bent arm, bring the other arm up to your ear like you are on the phone. You should keep turning your body so your feet are close to the wall at this point. 
  4. Find streamline position: Your body should be ready to explode into streamline! Dunk fully under the water and push off the wall, squeezing your arms tight. Do a few dolphin kicks before starting butterfly again. 

Try the Wall Turn Drill

This drill will help you work on your reaction time during your turns, and will help you stay low. Start with both hands on the wall, and your hips close to the surface. Then, “elbow your brother,” tuck your knees and do a turn as quickly as you can!

Once you’ve mastered this drill at the wall, try doing it in the middle of the pool. Without the wall to rely on, you might find your technique changes slightly. Focus on getting into streamline as quickly as possible, and notice where you’re creating drag with your body.

If you struggle with this, try keeping your elbows in tighter to your body, or tucking your knees in closer to your chest. 

Tips for Finishing a Butterfly Race

Like the butterfly turn, you must touch the wall with two hands when you finish a butterfly race. 

Ideally, you’ll work on your stroke count so you finish your race with your arms fully extended and head down. Try to avoid finishing a race on an awkward half stroke, or taking your last stroke too far from the wall.

When you reach the flags on your final lap, use all your remaining energy to keep your hips up and head down, and try not to breathe. Don’t let yourself fall apart right at the end!

The key to mastering the butterfly start, turn and finish is practice. Don’t slack off when you get tired…instead, make a point to swim every butterfly set with as close to perfect technique as possible. You’ll build muscle memory so everything comes naturally on race day! 

For more butterfly technique tips and daily workouts, download the MySwimPro app and start your personalized Training Plan!


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