View Full Version : Butterfly kick for Backstroke

Phil M.
July 6th, 2002, 06:50 PM
I have been trying to incorporate the butterfly kick off the start and turns with my backstroke. I get 2 -4 kicks in before I come to the surface. My question is: how much faster is the butterfly kick than the flutter kick? Or do you have to have a strong fly kick to gain any benefit? ** years ago we were very content with a quick flutter to the surface (and I'm not anywhere near as fast now!)

July 6th, 2002, 10:17 PM
Years ago I would have been happy to use the fly kick on the start and the turns since butterfly was either my best stroke or second best stroke and I was a poor backstroker. The best times I had in backstroke were when I was 13 years old and from then on they went downhill. Personality, now I don't care and only swim backstroke in order to do something different. As for you maybe you should use flutter kick if the dolphin kick doesn't help.

Phil Arcuni
July 7th, 2002, 12:05 AM
I don't think it is obvious which is better in general. At the best levels of backstroke you see swimmers, such as Coughlin, that use every yard available for dolphin kick, and others that just try to get to the surface so they can swim.

I have experimented with it, since I am an OK backstroker and an OK butterflyer, and a good kicker, and I am hoping that the underwater butterfly kick can help me. But, I have been timed to the far flags across the pool with kicking the full 15 meters, and swimming most of it, and the times are pretty much the same. My second to next step to improving my swimming, after increasing my yardage, is to work in my 'core' strength (a trendy word), and streamlining, to make the kick faster. If you work on it I think it can help, but it does require significant training. Compare the hours you put into swimming, and the hours someone like Coughlin puts into it, and decide if it is worth it for you. Most important, don't do it in your next race if it is slower -- get timed in workout!

Right now I limit the 15 meters of underwater kick to the 50's. I run out of air if I do it in races of longer distances. At the last nationals, I was one of the very few that kicked underwater past the flags. With that in mind, I am still experimenting; perhaps it will be my magic bullet.;)

July 7th, 2002, 10:58 AM

I think the only drawback to a dolphin kick off the walls during backstroke and freestyle events is the potential for an oxygen debt. 50's and 100's ok maybe not...but 200yd. events absolutley.

Personally I have tried dolphin kick versus a flutter kick and can actually pick up a few extra feet off a turn before beginning a stroke. Only problem is...you can easily "run out of gas" so to speak unless you are in really good aerobic condition.

Most recently one of our members replied to a recent post of mine with the following web site:


It's an execellent visual resource for seeing some of the elite in action. Take a look at (Ian Thorpe freestyle 4). Looks like Flipper coming off the turns. I suspect his anaerobic threshold is unbelievable along with all the others at that level of competition.

I am sure you'll get a good number of replies to your post.

Phil Arcuni
July 7th, 2002, 12:48 PM
I'm pretty sure the underwater dolphin is superior to the underwater flutter kick, and it takes only minimal trainig for that to be true. The question is how long to continue the kick before surfacing. You want to do it at least as long as required to avoid your own turbulence that followed you into the wall.

I've read it that the order of speed of strokes, from fastest to slowest, starts with freestyle (crawl) and is followed by underwater dolphin kick. If that were true than one should try to do the underwater dolphin kick for as long as possible in fly and back, but not in freestyle. That is the way Coughlin swims those strokes. However, I do not believe that underwater dolphin is that fast for most competitive swimmers, including masters swimmers at the national level. It takes a lot of training to make underwater kicking superior to swimming.

Rain Man
July 7th, 2002, 01:46 PM
Everyone are pretty much getting at the correct answer to the question, which is... there really is no answer. At the elite levels, sure you see all of the swimmers using the dolphin off the wall and most for 10-15m as long as they can sustain their speed.

Swimming must be tailored to the individual in question. Coaches have to take the time to work with the swimmer and find what is their correct combination of underwater time, which underwater kick to use, over one length and the race distance to find what works best for the particular swimmer.

Some swimmers may show potential for using the 15m underwater dolphin over a 25, but for the whole 100, they die out. These swimmers may benefit from some more extensive underwater training to improve the stamina.

I guess my take is grab the coach, get a stopwatch, and start recording data. At the level of most swimmers in this forum however, and 99% of swimmers in general, there is probably very little difference regardless of their choice. It's more an issue of what allows you to finish the race most comfortably.

Coughlin has probably been swimming underwater dolphin since her age group years and is very proficient at it. At an age group level, I would advocate teaching it, as the benefits for someone good at it are quite apparent. At the masters level, it will take far more effort as it would be a new learned behavior.

Just my 2 cents. Thanks.


July 7th, 2002, 10:34 PM
Most people I one say that freestyle is the fastest. However, there are exceptions and a few people can do a 25 yard or 50 yard butterfly or backstroke as fast as the freestyle. It just that its harder to hold it in Fly or Backstroke. For example, my 50 fly as a teenager was about the same speed as my freestyle but there was about a two second difference in time at the 100 yard mark. If I plan to do Fly again in a race I wouldn't go 15 meters underwater but would do the old fashion two kicks and a pull off of the turns. I wouldn't swim backstroke outside of an IM and would do a traditional start. and turns from the 1970's.

July 10th, 2002, 12:29 AM
The real genesis for underwater dolphin kick in freestyle is the Russian sprinters in 1992 and 1996. They beat our sprinters by doing 2-3 dolphins while our freestylers did flutter kick. From that moment on I have taught the dolphin kick off each turn in all strokes except breast. One high school girl I coached did five dolphins on her side for every turn in the 500 free; I figure she only swam 300 yards. With the proper depth on the turns such as Coughlin does, with perfect streamlining anyone can cut time off their races. You just need a coach to help and practice perfect every turn.

Many great swimmers have come back from injuries to shoulders and do great like Coughlin. Same for knee injuries. Sometimes the training of just half the body brings the swimmers previous weakness into strengths. Just takes will power.

Most Masters swimmers spend an hour swimming four to five times a week. Yet how much time do they spend on the little things like perfect streamlining, the perfect small dolphin kick, the perfect flip turn? Perhaps once a month?

Every masterís swimmer can use their mastersí prerogative and practice those things every workout, every turn.

Wayne McCauley

Steve Ruiter
July 10th, 2002, 05:09 PM
I like to think of using the underwater kick as diversifying your use of muscles: one system get a bit of a rest while the other one is working.

I try to get out underwater dolhin kicking on backstroke so that my feet come up outside the flags. I guess thats about 7-8m. I know that I am stronger on the resulting fewer armstrokes that are required by kicking out that far. The risk is overdoing it and causing oxygen debt. You need to find the right mix for yourself.

Bert Petersen
July 11th, 2002, 01:27 AM
Some can, some can't. I have a pretty good dolphin kick but not on my back and especially not underwater. It used to make me so sad to see folks of all ages lying underwater, kicking their brains out, going nowhere while the person in the next lane was up and swimming past them. IF you can do it well, I say go to it. But check with your coach and make sure it is working for you. Just because the elite swimmers can do something doesn't make it great for everyone. It's very flattering to see the other 3 strokes trying to steal part of butterfly !!!!! ;)

July 11th, 2002, 07:32 PM
I understand what you are saying. After the 1972 olympics, grab starts came about because Mark Spitz's use them. I wasn't that adapt at it and was one of the few that still used the older start which is a behid wind up start.