Invented by Australian Sydney Cavill (according to the International Swimming Hall of Fame), the butterfly stroke is one of the most challenging strokes in swimming. Mastered by the likes of Michael Phelps and now Caeleb Dressel, this stroke is a true full body workout. Are you familiar with the major muscle groups you’ll use when you do it?
Your core muscles get quite the workout when you do the butterfly stroke, thanks in no small part to the dolphin kick you’ll be doing. Because you’re moving your legs together in conjunction with the arm movement, expect your back muscles and abdominal muscles to be doing quite a lot of work. The inner muscles will be working to stabilize your body through your kicks as more superficial muscles like your lats, traps, and rhomboids provide power for your arm strokes.
Arm muscles will see a fair amount of work as well, especially those in the shoulder. The shoulder muscles will be doing a lot of work to bring the arms over your head for your strokes. Your biceps will help stabilize your arms, and the muscles in your lower arms will help keep your hands in an ideal position for pushing water back so you can move forward. While your back muscles will do most of the work for pulling your arms back, your triceps and deltoids will also be involved.
Virtually every muscle in your legs will be engaged for the dolphin kick. The muscles of your inner thighs will work to keep your legs together. Those in the front and back of your legs will get involved in the upward and downward motion of the kick. Your glutes and hip flexors will also see a fair bit of work. The activation of the glutes is crucial to the upward motion of your legs and the hip flexors are an important factor in the downward motion.
The Butterfly stroke is a real challenge to master. It’s also an excellent stroke for getting a real full body workout. As with any swimming stroke (or any other exercise, for that matter), doing it with good form is crucial. Good form reduces your risk of injury and increases your overall ability to swim well. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get the form right before you focus on things like speed.
The butterfly stroke is one of the strokes you work on in SwimJim’s advanced swimming program. Learn more about what you can expect to learn from this program here.