View Full Version : Training for butterfly, esp. 200m

May 10th, 2004, 12:30 PM
Hi all,
I'm looking for advice on training for the butterfly. In the way of background I'm 40, male, and started swimming with a Masters swim group last summer and have been learning butterfly. I was only a fitness swimmer before last summer, and only off and on. I did a 50m fly in 35.97 last November but haven't gone below 36s since. I've swum the 100 fly four times and have done 1:31.5 +/- 0.5s each time. I would like to work up to the 200m fly but am not sure how to go about it, unlike the other strokes I can't go further simply by going slower! At this point 100m is pretty much my limit, and I only do 100m in meets not as part of workout sets. I found an article on the H2ouston site on training for 200m fly, which brings up another issue: short axis pulsing/body dolphining. First, I'm not very good at it, I spent an hour on the weekend swimming back and forth across the width of the pool (6 lanes, not sure the distance), and I can do a width of the pool underwater but I'm pretty slow. Second, I don't really understand the relationship between body dolphins with one kick per cycle and butterfly with two kicks per cycle. The H2ouston article said there would be a separate article explaining this but I couldn't find it. I've got the total immersion butterfly/breast stroke video, but so far my butterfly is nowhere near "virtually effortless" as they describe in the video. I think I have the timing of the two kicks down ok, but I'm missing the connection between the body dolphins and the full stroke, other than initiating the launch kick of the full stroke in my upper body rather than just using my legs. I also worry that body dolphins involve a larger undulation than is desirable in the full stroke. I've seen a video of me swimming fly and it looks like it is in slow motion! My impression is that I might need less undulation in order to increase turnover?
I am also unsure of what extent one has to swim fly to train for fly, we don't get a lot of fly, and really nothing over 50m of fly in our workouts, and if I tried to do 100m fly in the "choice" sets I would probably have a coronary! My current hypothesis is that technique is a greater obstacle to getting to the 200m fly than conditioning so all my freestyle training is going to have minimal impact. I just have to figure that those of you talking about doing 1650 of fly or 10 x 200m fly sets must be doing something different, I can't imagine that conditioning alone would allow me to keep up my stoke for 10 x 200m! But is there some particular aspect of technique one should adjust for longer distances?


Kevin in MD
May 10th, 2004, 04:04 PM
Every saturday is my day to train for the 200 fly. Gives me a nice break from all the distance freestyle stuff.

1. You say you got the total immersion breast and fly video but you don't mention that you have actually practiced the drill progression they give. If I work through them at the beginning of the workout I can swim something that looks like fly, otherwise it is somethign resembling a dying animal. So try the drills in order and see what they are teaching. I often have to review them because I forget one of the keys to the drill.

But they all make sense.

2. Short axis pulse is fly undulation with one of the kicks taken out. Specifically the breakout kick, the kick that you take when you dive back into the water is the one that stays the same. Right now I am just working on one beat fly, I'll add the second beat when my form holds for more reasonable distances.

3. You mention swimming widths of body dolphin underwater. I had a breakthrough when i was able to get a breath while doing the body dolphin without breaking the undulations. It mostly involves keeping your head neutral and not looking forward to breathe. In fact, that was probably one of the biggest things. Doing lots of body dolphin with arms out and working on getting the breath as part of the rhythm.

4. All the drills have a good purpose. The body dolphins I mentioned, the stoneskipper helps nail the hand plant at the corners. Hip delay taches a clean recovery.

Good luck

Not to say that this is the only way to learn it, but I have had some success with it. I am swimming 200 fly repeats regularly (I know it's not the same as the 200 fly) and have been making good progress.

Matt S
May 11th, 2004, 11:20 PM

There are 2 articles at the H2Ouston Swim web site: "Slip Slid'n Away" (which I think you saw), and "Vive Le Papillon!" (which you might miss if you don't know the French word for butterfly). That has some ideas for mixing in more fly, in longer swims, but still only doing fly with good form, Emmett's so-called EZ Fly. I did a 500 that way just last Sunday. It works. The bottom line is Yes, you can slow down your fly to complete a 200, you just have to use that body dolphin to get your hips up, and SLOW DOWN!!

Some of us have chatted up the 200 fly before. Try this discussion thread (“improving butterfly”): http://forums.usms.org/showthread.php?s=&threadid=2342&highlight=butterfly

And this thread (“200 Butterfly Strategy advice?”): http://forums.usms.org/showthread.php?s=&threadid=100&highlight=hips+pulse


May 11th, 2004, 11:32 PM
35 something in a 50 meter fly and you learn fly less than 6 months is fast. you faster than me and I swam as a kid. Granted I'm female and about 7 years older. Your right I can hold a decent fly at 25 yards and a fair one at 50 yards. For a 100 yard swim I can do 2 strokes mainly for the first lap and for the 200 I have to go to 1 stroke. I can swim 100 yard and 200 yard swims probably because I did this in childhood but I'm slow concerning my background. And you are right you don't have to do many 200's. Some 100's and once in a while 200 and 25 yard and 50 yards will help.

Bob McAdams
May 12th, 2004, 01:29 PM
Originally posted by LindsayNB
I don't really understand the relationship between body dolphins with one kick per cycle and butterfly with two kicks per cycle.

You've already received some good replies, but I don't see that anyone has covered this point.

You shouldn't take it as a given that you need two kicks per cycle in butterfly. Some expert butterfliers use two kicks, but others only use one.

I was at a high school swim meet a couple of months ago at which I tried to keep track of who was using two kicks per cycle and who was using one, and the results were pretty startling: The swimmers who took the top places all seemed to be using one kick per cycle; the ones who were using two kicks per cycle all finished at the bottom of the heap.

Now, it would be a mistake to conclude from this that one kick per cycle is automatically faster than two kicks. There are some elite swimmers who use two kicks per cycle and who do quite well. But there are others who only use one kick per cycle.

What I would suggest is that you use one kick per cycle while you are doing the Total Immersion drills. When you get to the point where your butterfly is feeling smooth and effortless, then decide whether you really need to add a second kick.

May 12th, 2004, 09:13 PM
Thanks for the responses!

I think I now understand why I got frustrated with the TI butterfly drills: I didn't realize they were teaching one-kick butterfly! I "knew" butterfly had two kicks so when I got to the part where you add in the arms things didn't fit naturally. Tonight I watched the video again and when I viewed the whole-stroke part in slow motion I was able to see that she was in fact only doing one kick. Contrary to Kevin's post though, it looked to me like the downstroke of the kick occurred in the pull/launch phase? The shoulders came up and then the hips and then the feet, with the shoulders coming up again as the feet began the downstroke. Have I got this wrong?

In Swimming Fastest a single kick per stroke is listed in the common stroke errors section...

In one of the earlier threads one poster said that a single kick was a sprint adaptation to allow a faster turnover which got me wondering if the races Bob mentioned were 50m races?

In the Tom Boettcher article he says he swims two kicks...

I guess the question for me is, I already swim a two-kick stroke, should I switch to a one-kick stroke, especially if I want to concentrate on the longer distances?

What about practicing the body dolphins to work on whole body swimming and both up-stroke and down-stroke aspects of kicking but use two-kick one arm fly instead of body dolphins when doing the Half-Fly sets? I did a few hundreds of that on the weekend and I can picture it working. I will try experimenting with slowing down but also keeping my hips high.

By the way Matt, are you doing one kick or two kick fly?

May 14th, 2004, 09:24 AM
Bob McAdams made a good point about discerning whether you're better off with a 1-kick fly or a 2-kick fly. I've found that many adults -- myself included -- find it much easier to achieve a "serviceable" fly with the 1-kick stroke. I've coached several world class flyers and many more who were "butterfly challenged" and feel that many more people could learn to become comfortable and reasonably efficient in fly by experimenting with the 1-kick approach.
Here are some suggestions for 1-kick fly:
1. When doing any of the TI fly drills, focus mainly on rhythmic pulsing with your chest -- driving the fingertips forward as you do.
2. Resist the urge to let the thigh muscles take over. They will be involved, but try to keep them subordinate to the chest-pulsing.
3. And whatever you do, keep your "kick" quiet, whether kicking, drilling or swimming. A noisy, splashy, pounding kick does nothing but stir the water up and consume extravagant amounts of energy. If you kick underwater, you feel the water wrapping around your feet at all times. Keep the same feeling when on the surface. Your heels and toes should barely reach the surface on their upbeat.
4. My fly whole-stroke is almost exactly the same movement as my body-dolphin fly drill (on the TI fly-breast video). I pulse once with my chest, which initiates the stroke. After the stroke I let my body naturally find balance, then pulse to initiate the next stroke. It's entirely legal to swim fly that way -- and relaxed enough that you can easily continue for 200 meters. In fact to do an even "lazier" fly, you could pulse 2, 5 or 10 times between strokes and still keep it completely legal, so long as your hands remain extended.
5. I add speed to this -- i.e. when swimming a series of 25s or beginning a 200 IM -- simply by moving more seamlessly into the next pulse/stroke as I land from the previous one.
6. Some other technique points that I've found helpful:
a) Land FORWARD (gravity takes care of the DOWN part) with hands going directly in front of -- or just wider than -- your shoulders. The wider entry allows the shoulder blades to fold together, which helps release the lower back. And since you start the stroke from the "corners" you might as well land there.
b) Land "gently" to avoid dissipating energy, as "crashing down" would do. This helps direct your momentum forward more effectively. You can also help channel momentum forward by letting your face stay mainly neutral as you land. Many people try to accomplish undulation by driving the chin to the chest as they land. This mainly causes the body to dive.
c) Keep the stroke short. From the corners -- where you landed -- sweep the hands towards each other (thumbs leading, palms back) to meet high on the chest. Keep the elbows high and wide as you do. As soon as they meet, immediately reverse direction and head for the exit. Think of the exit as a karate chop to the sides. DON'T PUSH BACK. If you try to make your stroke "too short" you're almost certain to get it right. Your body passes over your hands as they sweep out toward the exit.
d) Breathe as early as possible and make it a "sneaky breath" as if trying to hide your breath from an observer.
e) Let your chest sink as your hands land forward and you'll be set up for the next cycle.

And finally only swim as many cycles as you feel able to execute as above. Don't allow yourself to practice a single cycle of "Butterstruggle."
Happy laps,
Terry Laughlin

May 18th, 2004, 01:39 PM
Thanks for the advice Terry, I didn't expect a reply directly from the TI source!

I've come to the conclusion that I should start over with the TI drills and practice each one longer before moving on.

I'll also experiment more with fins and no fins, my guess is that I'm doing something wrong as in the past I have found that everything feels great with the fins on, but then when I take them off I'm actually worse! With the fins on I can swim with no overt kick, but when I take the fins off my legs sink as I pull. I don't have a problem with my legs sinking normally so I decided to not use fins anymore. I suspect the real problem is that I don't have the undulation down right. I am getting better at underwater body dolphins but things seem to get awkward when I do them on the surface without fins.

Another question, can someone elaborate on landing forward instead of down, how exactly does one do that? What are you doing different to cause you to land forward instead of down? All I can figure is that maybe my timing is off and the downbeat of the kick is ending too early?

Our last club time trial is on Thursday so after that I plan on spending the summer concentrating on improving my fly.

An aside to Terry: if you ever revise the video it would be a bonus to have more footage of the final full stroke, esp. some underwater footage. It would also be helpful to explicitly state that you are teaching the one kick style, and explain the advantages as you have here, so that people like me don't get confused by our preconceptions.

Bob McAdams
May 18th, 2004, 03:31 PM
Originally posted by LindsayNB
Another question, can someone elaborate on landing forward instead of down, how exactly does one do that? What are you doing different to cause you to land forward instead of down? All I can figure is that maybe my timing is off and the downbeat of the kick is ending too early?[/SIZE]

What works for me is to focus on sweeping my arms forward during the recovery and then reaching as far forward as possible when I land.

May 20th, 2004, 07:20 AM
Originally posted by Bob McAdams

What works for me is to focus on sweeping my arms forward during the recovery and then reaching as far forward as possible when I land.

Thanks Bob, I'll give that a try.

May 29th, 2004, 05:10 PM
I found a video clip of Franck Esposito (http://swim.ee/videos/fly/Esposito-side-breath-one-kick-stroke.mpg) that shows one kick butterfly. It is a lot easier to see what is going on with the underwater footage.

Unfortunately it doesn't look at all like I expected! It looks like Kevin in MD had it right, the downbeat of the really visible kick occurs as the arms reenter the water. It doesn't look to me like this kick flows out of the undulation as discussed when talking about body dolphins. There is a chest down, hips down, legs down progression that looks like a proper undulation, but that occurs during the pull phase and has no knee bend at all making it look not very propulsive.

Is this what the one-kick fly we are talking about here is supposed to look like?

June 25th, 2004, 10:18 PM
It's probably a bad sign when one makes three posts in a row, but it's been a while so...

I've made some progress with my butterfly! I'm still doing a two-kick stroke, I just can't seem to break that habit. I think the big problem with my stroke was the timing of the kick, in particular I was kicking too early during the arm reentry phase. The result was that I was losing forward momentum as my arms reentered the water, necessitating quickly starting the next pull which required a lot of effort to get back up to speed. By delaying the kick until I am horizontal again, with face, chest, and arms in the water, the kick gives me that feel of surging down a wave as I press my chest downward. If I then concentrate on the feel of a downward wave/undulation moving down my body starting with the chest I get my breath easily and my arms seem to naturally move through the pull and recovery. It feels really awesome when I get the rhythm right, although strangely, while it doesn't feel like I'm working hard while I'm doing it I'm breathing fairly hard by the end of 25m. Anyway, it's progress and I'm encouraged.

Mostly to see how it works I've attached a picture of Michael Phelps showing how his torso is (almost) horizontal as his feet start their downsweep...

June 26th, 2004, 08:27 AM
I don't think I am as far along as you in learning the fly, but I do have a similar feeling. So far, I don't ever swim more than one length at a time - otherwise I get sloppy and I don't want to let that become a habit. Usually, I swim 25 fly then either 25 free or 75 free - something like that.

My timing on the kicks/strokes is terrible. In my case, what I have learned is that it starts on the push off/first stroke. I push off and glide. Then as I start to slow down, I begin to kick to get the most out of the push off before stroking. The first stroke has to be timed right or I am in big trouble. If the timing of the first stroke is right, I can finish the length with relative ease. If the timing is off - in my case I think I begin the stroke a split second too late - forget it. It becomes almost impossible to recover my arms. I am between kicks when trying to recover/breathe so I don't get that push out of the water. My arms end up recovering partly under the water instead of over and I have to lift my head to breathe instead of keeping it in line with my back. If I get a first stroke like this, I just stop doing the fly and immediately go into freestyle stroke rather than try to get the timing fixed for that length.

June 26th, 2004, 08:52 AM

I'm not a fly specialist, but I can swim it when we have to. Wednsday is IM day. :).. aside from being Prince spagetti night. But looking at the video there seems to be a double kick even if he pauses ever so slightly. Not sure if this is one kick fly but it sure is a little unusual. My coach from way back always had us think about the hips and chin and from what I recall this may be of help....

*Focus on keeping your hips near the surface. If they go vertical when you pop up to breathe you're going to be dragging through the water rather than skimming along the surface.

*That leads to the chin comment. When you take a breath, make it fast and keep the chin down low. Don't be concerned about getting an unwanted gulp of pool water. (Some people even turn their heads to the side in keeping a low horizontal line in the water.) When your head comes out for a breath, try to face down again immediately so the arms have a free range of motion and can stay lower on the recovery.

There's alot to think about but once you maintain a horizontal body posture everything starts to come together.

Gareth Eckley
June 27th, 2004, 03:18 PM

Thanks for an interesting thread. Have you looked at the "Fly Away" video by Monika Schloeder? She works with the Calgary swimmers. This has a very interesting approach. I have used quite a few of her drill progressions with my swimmers.

Some swimmers feel that the should dive down into the water when their hands enter. They are trying to force an undulation. But all that unecessary up and dowm movement wastes energy and creates more drag. Keep your body horizontal and relaxed and it will undulate as much as you need if the timing of your arms and legs is correct.

I tell my kids to "kick the hands into the water ( specifically from hand entry kick them into the catch ) and to kick the hands out of the water ( exit into recovery ). I see this as, feet push down as hands move into catch, feet raise up as hands meet under chest and feet kick down as hands move from under chest to their exit from the water. During the arm recovery the feet are moving upwards. I especially work on timing the 2nd downbeat to match the hand push back. We practice a drill where the hands are held under the chest, with feet raised and we kick the hands backwards and out of the water. This is to get the feel of arms and legs in unison.

On the "Fly Away' video, they are doing the more traditional fly, where the hands do push back all the way to the hips before exiting for the recovery.

Terry Laughlin is describing the "front end fly", which has some differences from the other form. The "stoneskipper" drill is used by Bill Sweetenham with UK swimming, but he calls it the "Biondi drill ". One progression is "stoneskipper" or "Biondi" drill with one kick between, then 2 kicks between, 3 and the 4 kicks between. This can be run in either direction, ascending or descending number of kicks inbetween.

When you look at Michael Phelps swim you can see that he has a wide entry. His arms are outside his shoulders and they pull almost straight back into his catch and arm pull. There seems to be a move by the best swimmers to avoid pushing sideways against the water, i.e using sweeps. Instead the hands move backwards in an almost straight path.

I am looking forward to seeing what techniques are used in the Olympics. Bob Bowman, Phelps's coach will be at the British coaches conference this year. I hope to ask him about Phelps' technique.

By the way it is great to hear from Matt S, Mark in MD, Cinc 310 etc. Where have you guys been ? The forums have been, in my opinion, a bit uninteresting recently, welcome back !:)

June 27th, 2004, 05:29 PM
Hi Valhallan, Esposito's style is definately unique among the video clips I've seen of elite swimmers, but he holds the SCM world record in the 200m butterfly so I figure it can't be all bad!

The thing I found most interesting about it is the relationship between the kicks and the undulation, it seems pretty clear to me that the kick is not transmitting the force from the core body undulation in the sense of a wave moving through the metaphorical whipped towel, and he's very clearly not following a standing wave pattern. Even more interesting for me, the most overt kick occurs after his head and trunk are horizontal in the water as his arms reenter, not as he launches out of the water to recover his arms, in fact from the point where his arms come level with his shoulders during the pull to when they leave the water his legs are barely moving at all. This made me really question the idea of using the kick to launch up out of the water for the breath, which was part of my previous mental model of the stroke.

The other kick also affected my thinking in that it seems to me that he is using the kick to maintain momentum as the arms enter and move to the catch. It is the loss of speed during this part of the stroke that is usually cited as the reason why butterfly is not as fast a freestyle. A timing or style that fills in this valley in the speed profile to produce a more even profile should increase efficiency.

I then took another look at Phelp's more classical two-kick style:
underwater video of Michael Phelps' fly (http://swim.ee/videos/fly/Phelps-fly-style-underwater.mpg)
and after much frame by frame observation concluded that his timing of the reentry kick was the same although he does a kick during the launch as well.

About this time I was noticing, as I practiced breathing while body dolphining and breathing during breaststroke kick with no kickboard that undulation allowed me to easily get my head up to breath without requiring any propulsion from the kick and with minimal sinking of the hips, especially if I was quick about breathing and getting back to a horizontal position quickly.

When I put the two things together, an undulation starting with my chest and moving smoothly down my body to my feet, and timing my other kick to start its downbeat as I got horizontal, it was like magic! The pull and recovery of the arms seemed to just automatically flow from the undulation and I had no problem breathing or keeping my arm recovery above water. Don't get me wrong, I'm still struggling to integrate the stroke, I still tend to revert to kicking instead of undulating, to kicking too early, to breathing too late. But I frequently get it right and it feels great when I do. I find one-arm fly drills are the most useful in helping me work on the timing, and I do those until I feel I've got it down before starting on full stroke.

Different mental models work for different people, getting away from undulation as propulsion and instead thinking of it as a movement that smoothly integrates the various motions involved in breathing, pulling, and recovery worked for me. Now I think undulate-and-kick, undulate-and-kick, with the undulate part including one of the two kicks, and the second kick being the one that keeps my speed up as I reenter and catch.

Oops! Gareth has posted message while I was writing this, but this is already pretty long so I'll reply to his post separately.

June 27th, 2004, 07:13 PM
Hi Gareth, I haven't seen Fly Away yet but I've seen the description at swiminfo.com (http://www.swiminfo.com/swimshop/shop_detail.asp?iPid=806&iCatId=3). I've got the Total Immersion Breaststroke and Butterfly video and the USA Swimming Michael Phelps Go Fast butterfly DVD. Would you recommend Fly Away as my next butterfly video? Swiminfo also has:
Auburn Swimming Faster Butterfly
Championship Productions - Butterfly Technique
Coaches Choice-Basic Butterfly Technique
Quick Series: Winning Butterfly

and the Go Swim folks have a new video:
Go Swim Butterfly with Misty Hyman (http://www.goswim.tv/productreviews_reviews.php?id=1187_0_19_0_C)
Any reviews and/or recommendations for which to buy next?

Degree of undulation is an interesting issue, Phelps has a fair degree as shown below. When I was first learning a year ago I had too much, then I cut down and developed a very flat style, but I was relying on pull and kick to rise enough to get a breath. Right now I'm just doing the amount that feels natural and waiting to get some consistancy in my stroke before starting work on the finer points.

What is it that is being worked on with Stoneskipper/Biondi drill adding progressively more kicks?

One thing for sure, I can't get my arms as far back as Phelps does here:

June 27th, 2004, 10:16 PM
Originally posted by Gareth Eckley
When you look at Michael Phelps swim you can see that he has a wide entry. His arms are outside his shoulders and they pull almost straight back into his catch and arm pull. There seems to be a move by the best swimmers to avoid pushing sideways against the water, i.e using sweeps. Instead the hands move backwards in an almost straight path.

Looking at a few clips of Phelps he does enter wide (as does Crocker) and goes straight to the catch, but he does bring his hands in almost together by the time they are under his torso. I haven't heard any reasonable argument for starting with the arms narrow and sweeping out to a catch, unless you want to glide before starting the outsweep in which case the narrow position is more streamlined. But gliding means losing speed which means having to regain your speed, which means wasting energy.

The way I go on you would almost think I thought I knew what I was talking about, but believe me I know I haven't got it figured out yet! I just have a lot of fun going through the video clips frame by frame trying to figure things out. Esposito of course enters with his hands together :)

Gareth Eckley
June 28th, 2004, 07:26 AM

There are quite a few fly videos out there. I only have the Total immersion one and the Fly Away videos. I like them because they have different approaches to the stroke.

I have not seen the others that you mention;

Auburn Swimming Faster Butterfly

Championship Productions - Butterfly Technique

Coaches Choice-Basic Butterfly Technique

Quick Series: Winning Butterfly

I am assuming that they are quite similar in their approach. The Misty Hyman video must be interesting, you will seee tons of kicking and body undulation in that one, i think.

The kick is not needed to get your arms to recover, in fact if you try to delay the 2nd kick until your arms have exited then you get into all kinds of problems.

The body pulsing or kicks between the " stoneskipper " drill is really to allow you time to settle in position for the next underwater arm movement. If you try to do do the "stoneskipper" continuously right away then you will probably have problems mastering it.

I was meaning that the "straighter arms" with Phelps is the front part, wider entry into catch. That is not entering narrow and sweeping hands out into the catch.

When the hands come under the chest they do come close together and then sweep out and back to their exit.

I still would choose the "fly away" video over the others. She covers all aspects of the stroke and the turn, with some great drills. I asked Monika Schloder why the drills showed the arm pull finishing close to the hips when in "front end " fly the hands exit wider. Her response was that in teaching the stroke, swimmers develop a longer stroke if drilled this way and that this style suits some swimmers better. When the swimmers are proficient then you can see if the shorter pull with wider exit suits them more.

You can experiment to find which style works best for you.


June 28th, 2004, 11:00 AM
Thanks for the reply Lindsay. You very articulate in describing the breakdown of this stroke. I think the first part to improving and ultimately excelling at any given stroke is in understanding the technique that works best for your body composition. It sounds like you are well on your way .

Having long limbs and great flexiblity is a bonus to any swimmer. And watching people like Phelps who has both characteristics is a real eye opener. He swims like a fish, not a human. I caught a quick commercial promo for the upcoming Olympic Games where they show him swimming butterfly across the Atlantic ocean. He hits the Statue of Liberty and then turns around and says "One !". (meaning one length.) Pretty clever. In any case, his fly stoke is absolutely effortless. And in my opinion it's because he's fluid, swimming with lots of rythm and undulation. No stiffness or hesitation exists in his stroke. Exactly as per your description. I admire your efforts in becoming a butterfly champ.

By the way www.swim.ee/index.html is a great web site. Being a backstroker I watch the Lenny K. and Aaron clips from time to time.

Phil Arcuni
June 29th, 2004, 01:23 AM
Hi Lindsay,

It is not just new swimmers that struggle with the issues that you bring up. I have a few top-ten times, but I have been and continue to fuss with my stroke, in *significant* ways. I have at least three different strokes that I now swim in competition. I am trying to settle on one, without much success.

As a youth I had a self-taught stroke that caused general amusement for anyone looking at it. My second kick (the first one is when the arms enter the water) was mistimed and strong, so that most of my upper half of my body came out of the water, with my head and chest facing forward as the arms swept past (I think this is the "all kinds of problems" that Gareth mentions.) It was fast enough to get by -- I even got to the PA state championships with it. It was not good enough for college and 200's, however, and I became relegated to swimming nothing but backstroke.

After my sophmore year I got tired of being laughed at and spent the summer totally reconstructing my stroke. I became what I felt was 'arm centered' rather than 'kick centered.' I let my arms pull my body through the water and the kick developed (almost) naturally. Despite being a philosophy totally different from what is coached then and now, coaches and swimmers thought it looked good with good 'body dolphin.' In my two remaining years I got to 52+ and 1:58+ and I was getting faster every meet.

The trouble was that I still could not breath and get a second kick in, so I always did one kick on breath strokes. I suspect that my stroke looks similar to Esposito's (without the large outsweep at the beginning of the pull.) Until very recently I thought that was a very serious stroke flaw. I am rethinking that now, but over the last couple of years I have again reconstructed my stroke in an attempt to get that second kick in. The motivation, besides esthetic, was a complete collapse during a couple of 200 flys. I felt that with age I could no longer afford to give up the extra propulsion.

So now I have a 'distance' fly where I recover into the water with my hands closer together, with an extended glide. With that glide I can place a breath and that second kick pretty much where I want them, something I find impossible in my normal arm/body motion. It is *not* fast, now at least, but I have used it for the beginning of a 200 (I can negative split that race now, if I want) or a 1650 fly (I did a 21:40 this year in that event.) Coaches say it looks good and smooth, even though I feel that I am spending most of my time gliding.

So now I have three different butterfly strokes -- a sprint, head down, no breath 2-kick fly, probably the same as what I swam in high school, used in 50's and the end of 100's, a 1 and 1/2 kick fly (two kicks head down, one kick on the alternate breath stroke) like I did in college and used in 100's and the end of 200's, and my gliding 2-kick stroke that I do as an old man.

So now I am torn between an attempt to make my glide stroke more peppy, and deciding I am a wus, go back to my college stroke (with concentration on keeping my hips high) and just accept that my body will collapse at the end of the 200.

So thanks for your thread. It has got me rethinking my stroke (again!) and allowed me to write this self-indulgent post.

June 30th, 2004, 03:56 PM
Hi Phil,
I haven't managed to complete a 200m yet let alone a 1650, so I wouldn't dream of offering advice but there is a comment in Swimming Fastest, under "Timing Errors" that addresses trying to add a second kick to a one kick stroke. You can judge whether it has any application in your case.

Kicking only once per stroke - In reality, the one-kick butterfly is really a one-and-a-half-kick butterfly because swimmers start but do not complete the downbeat of the second kick. This makes it difficult for them to maintain the hips near the surface and the inclined body position will increase form drag during the finish of the underwater armstroke and recovery.

The one-kick butterfly is difficult to correct ... Simply telling swimmers to kick twice will not remedy the situation. Butterfly swimmers who kick only once during each stroke cycle usually try to catch too quickly and then push straight back without sweeping the hands in under the body. This sets up a chain of events that makes the underwater armstroke so short that swimmers do not have time to bring the legs up and then kick them down a second time before the hands leave the water. As a result, they only have time to execute a partial downbeat. One-kick butterflyers should be instructed to exaggerate the outsweep and insweep of their armstrokes to provide enough time to get the legs in position to complete the second downbeat of the dolphin kick before the hands leave the water.

Thorpe's stroke looks to me like it might be this one-and-half-kick butterfly:

The issue of having more than one butterfly stroke is interesting. When I started doing the 100m I developed a more relaxed style with more glide. Today I realized that the "new" stroke I've been developing is actually turning out to be more of a sprint stroke, at least it's about as fast as my old sprint stroke ( :) ) and also as tiring ( :( ). Hmm, another pothole in the road toward a 200... :)

July 18th, 2004, 02:33 PM
Time goes on and I've got some new butterfly training questions I'm wondering about :)

Q1: how much of your workout should be butterfly?
Q2: what non-butterfly work will most help with butterfly?

Right now my sole objective is to improve my butterfly technique and conditioning. The only way I can swim all-fly workouts is to do 25m repeats with a lot of rest. I guess I could do 50m repeats with even more rest. The alternative is doing drills and mixing in other strokes. The workouts my coach gave me have a lot of sets like 3x400 (75cr,25fly) which I think of as his variation on Half-Fly (ala Coach Hines), think of it as a 100m pool where I am at the point where I swim 25m fly and then finish the other 75m as crawl. I figure the purpose of these sets is to increase endurance and get comfortable swimming fly when not freshly rested. The workouts also have sets like 6x200 of 2-2-2 (2left-2right-2full), I figure these are also building endurance while giving me a chance to concentrate on timing and technique. I think I could swim 2-2-2 for an indefinite distance now. I've started working on 2-2-2-2 (2left-2full-2right-2full i.e. 50% full up from 33% in 2-2-2) but I can't do it indefinitely yet.

Because our pool is now closed on weekends I've been swimming Mon,Tue, Thu,Fri but I have found that the Tue and Fri workouts seem to suffer, what I did relatively easily on Thu leaves me gasping for breath on Fri. I am thinking I might try MWF this week in hopes of having three good workouts instead of two good workouts and two discouraging ones. Or would I be better doing four but doing something other than fly on Tue and Thu?

I feel like I have several good sets to build workouts from but don't know how to design whole workouts or a week of workouts. I'm making progress but I would like to get around the days when I just don't seem to have any gas in the tank as they leave me feeling discouraged.

Any ideas or advice?

July 18th, 2004, 03:22 PM
When I did my 100fly in 1:00 minute in 1958 I did it by training 500 meters a day. Mostly free 25s or 50s sometimes some 25m fly and 25 fly kicks, I raced my fly kicks against the free swimmers. If you want to swim fast you have to train fast.

George Park www.swimdownhill.com

Gareth Eckley
July 19th, 2004, 04:53 AM
There are a few questions i would ask before designing a fly based training program.

The obvious one is are you looking at two 24 week cycles in a year, peaking for 2 national events ?

General season planning would have the periodisation based around your main competitions.

Working from that there would an initial General endurance phase, specific endurance phase, etc, etc leading to maximum training and speed work and then taper. Each phase has its own mix of the 4 zones - Aerobic, Anaerobic and Lactate Production & lactate tolerance work and hence each work out has defined percentages of work in specific zones.

You are not going to be able to do enough work in all the training zones swimming fly only, but you must swim enough fly in each of the training zones to properly condition for competition.

You can get all of the season planning info from Maglischos 'Swimming Fastest'.

The problem with the information in all of the books is that it is aimed at programs for young age group or 20 yr old swimmers. Programs for Masters need to be adapted, dependant on your age, range of motion, time available for swimming etc.

The adaptation would be shorter workouts, more rest days between, back off at 1st sign of shoulder pain, more testing. Incorporate specific tests to determine your progress. This may be a timed 25m fly swim and 25m kick.

Fly training should be 1/3 kick based, 1/3 arm based, 1/3 whole stroke. You can incorprate drills into each phase Use kick based drills and arm based drills, done at slow, medium and fast speeds. I have a fly kick sequence in the thread Pull v Kick. Many people only do drills slowly, that is a mistake.

Do stretches to enhance your range of motion, and weights or bands for the muscles between shoulders, in upper back, which are often weak and tight.

Increase workouts distance and intensity by max 5% week ( if swimming 4 - 5 times week ) or by 5% every 2 weeks if swimming 2-3 times week.

Get yout technique looked at and analyzed and if you can get a good coach.

July 19th, 2004, 11:55 PM
Hi Gareth,

Many thanks for your detailed reply!

In my case I am thinking more in terms of learning to do the stroke right and over longer distances rather than performances in specific competions. I figure I should complete a 200m fly before I start thinking about getting competitive! I think of the 200m fly as a personal "grand challenge" kind of thing. The 100m fly I've done a few times and have gone from "I just want to finish" to "I want to finish without any final 25m drama", now I want to start bringing my time down. Well, even in the 100 and 50 my technique needs a lot of improvement.

Having said all that, my big meets are in early Oct, late May (Cdn Nationals), and late July (World Masters Games - no qualifying times!). It would be very cool to do a 200m in Oct, right now I can't judge if that is realistic. Maybe there's a reason so few people swim the 200fly... :)

Masters has shut down for July and August here so I don't have coaching other than getting workouts by email.

I had Swimming Fastest out from the library for quite a while but I didn't go through the seasonal training (it's a BIG book!) because it seemed to be aimed at someone beyond my current level.

I assume arm-based drills are anything other than kicking?

I have to admit that I have never tried to pick up the speed with drills, perhaps because I'm still struggling to integrate all the components with the correct timing. Certainly something to try, anything specific you recommend?

Flexibility is certainly something I need a lot of work on, I'm very poor in that department. The last time I tried improving my shoulder flexibility by stretching a lot I started having shoulder problems, is there anything specific I can try or that I should avoid? I have had shoulder problems in the past but after changing my freestyle stroke I haven't had problems for a while now, fly has never seemed to cause a problem for me (knock on wood!)

Thanks again for input so far!