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Thread: Butterfly, Discussion on Overall Technique

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    Active Member gjy's Avatar
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    Butterfly, Discussion on Overall Technique

    Butterfly, Discussion on Overall Technique

    I am going to reply to this post with my summary interpretation on fly technique but first I will describe where I am with the fly and how I got here.

    About a year ago I casually decided to improve my horrible swimming "technique" and re-teach myself freestyle, back, and breast strokes. Somewhere along the line I started playing with the butterfly stroke too which was particularly helpful in making sure I got the most exhausting workouts. So far, my mission is to improve my enjoyment of exercise and make the best out of my limited opportunity for swimming which does not include any formal instruction (Masters would be fantastic but it's not in my near term plans.) In fact, my swimming season could end anytime now so I am taking this opportunity to record what I think I've figured out.

    In reading older posts on this board, I came across a comment from someone who wrote: practice, study, practice, study, practice, ... That is what I've done. I've searched out advice on the net, downloaded and studied video, and taken a lot of notes. I haven't come across any type of consensus that the best video instruction or book to buy is "such and such" or found too much consensus on anything other that it's a hard stroke to learn. Other than for a couple of sources, info has come in bits and pieces. A personal instructor and film of myself would be great, maybe it will happen someday.

    I began attempting butterfly without even having learned how to dolphin kick which is what I worked on first. After several workouts, I started getting the legs in control and could actually do some fast but very inelegant "butterfly" for up to 25 meters at a shot. My exercise routine has been pretty consistent in rotating two laps of each of the four strokes. I gradually started reading more info on the fly and I discovered I was supposed to be kicking twice instead of once. Initially, it seemed impossible to kick twice but (within a couple sessions) I worked in the second downkick by doing (what I thought of as a) "bunny hop" kick shortly after the first kick ended. For many a workout I worked on arm motion and breathing the most and took lots of notes in the evening. I was not getting the progress I was looking for which made me try even harder. Then I found that some recommend learning with one kick (but I wasn't going back to one now), and I realized the improper timing of my second kick but I was unable to do anything about it. I also discovered that some advice I had apparently misinterpreted had led me into unknowingly dragging my legs straight during part of the stroke. Then I wrote what I'll call my first brilliant rule of butterfly:

    "You must learn to rhythmically undulate the entire torso properly for butterfly, and be able to control it, or you will not succeed. This is the first order of business. Do this and learning the rest is a matter of time and perseverance. Don't learn the butterfly undulation, and time don't matter."

    Since then, I've been working on undulation almost exclusively. I am very bad at forcing myself to do drills for very long and for the other strokes I do not do any significant drills. For butterfly, I had been doing some isolated kicking and body movements and also plenty of non-breathing and slower motion butterfly. But it hadn't been helping enough. So I started swimming some more intense laps of just undulating and practicing undulating at the surface. Also, I've tried practicing with the arms recovering underwater instead of over and also swinging the arms over and under while applying little underwater resistance. No matter what I did, I found it hard to correct my fly undulation while pulling and the timing of the subsequent (second) kick. I tried mixing in a stroke or two of fly in the midst of a lap of otherwise plain undulation, but I found it too awkward to revert to anything else once got into a full fly stroke. In particular, as far as I can tell, plain undulation meshes with one kick and not two. I haven't yet tried alternating/mixing in other strokes (like breast and freestyle) with fly in the same lap or even one-armed fly. There are too many possible things to try and learn and none standout as best, so I prefer short drills, getting on with butterfly, and not overly interrupting the rest of my medley.

    My breakthrough was in concentrating almost exclusively on undulation though the catch, pull, and push. I think of my body as pushing into an arc, but only in one segment at a time starting with the chest. First there is downward pressure on the chest, then the stomach, then the thighs, and then the lower legs. And by really exaggerating this motion I can finally change the pattern of my undulation. This also helps to loosen up my legs which was desperately needed. However, what I've gotten so far is a tiring jerky stroke with highly exaggerated undulation; but the sequence of my undulation seems to be finally on the right course. I've got a lot of smoothing and flattening out to do and it seems like I need work re-integrating my arm-stroke.

    In reading earlier threads here, I found someone had posted a couple video frames of Phelps' stroke positions. I actually took the same source video file and extracted a few frames myself at the precise points of my interest (see attached jpeg). I am imprinting these positions into my mind and I intend to focus on executing these stroke points as shown. I looked at video of several other top swimmers (Ian Crocker and others including female) and I could find the same points of interest in their strokes. Phelps' head and trunk goes deeper below his arms than most others (but not all) and Phelps is one of few who breathe every stroke, but I think the stills of Phelps do the intended job.

    Comments, arguments, ridicule, or advice on anything is welcome.

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    Active Member gjy's Avatar
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    jpg didn't show up, let me try again

    (was it the space in the name?)
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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    Active Member gjy's Avatar
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    (My notes evolved into this, I'm hoping I finally got it right)

    Learning to Butterfly

    You must learn to rhythmically undulate the entire torso properly for butterfly, and be able to control it, or you will not succeed. This is the first order of business. Do this and learning the rest is a matter of time and perseverance. Don't learn the butterfly undulation, and time don't matter.

    The hip joints delineate the central axis for undulation. Just the right amount of undulation provides optimal fluidity, minimal effort, less waves, and more energy being directed forwards. Undulation of the torso dictates the motion of the arms and legs, not the other way around. A significant sequence in the undulation involves applying downward pressure with the chest, followed by downward pressure with the stomach, followed by downward pressure with the thighs, and ending in downward pressure with the lower legs and feet. As arm recovery ends, the head and shoulders go down and the hips go up with a down kick.

    Kicking is an extension of the undulation. The two down-kicks must occur at (1) arms at full forward extension and at (2) ELBOWS EXITING WATER which provides continuation of momentum with head up for breathing. The butt is at its highest at the finish of down-kick-1 and down-kick-2 will naturally occur with the butt a few inches lower; the smaller the difference in elevation, the better. Down-kick-1 finishes during the short outsweep of the hands or at the very beginning of the very first arm stroke. The lower legs rise for most of the arm pull; and after down-kick-2, the lower legs are in up motion for most of the recovery. Elapsed time between down-kicks- 1 and 2 may be roughly 20% longer than the time between down-kicks- 2 and 1. Down-kick-2 is a direct result of a full body undulation whereas down-kick-1 is solely from hip action.

    Fly-dolphin kick with feet angled back and inwards and toes kept slightly bent. It may be helpful during learning to minimize kicking force and rely even more on undulation. For most swimmers, both kicks finish with the legs straight at the knees and the lower legs immediately bounce back up. The legs remain loose at the knees. Up and down lower-leg motion never stops but more force is typically applied on the down motion.

    Besides full body undulating with the kicks occurring at the right times, the most important thing is to develop is a consistent armstroke through the water to go with a consistent head low breathing motion. Breathe (blow) out during pull with mouth open before surfacing for the next breath. Breathe every other stroke and do not alter this pattern unless it becomes desirable to breath every stroke. Shoulders/head rise naturally early in pull and keep head as low as possible during breathing and quickly go back to face down. Look more down than ahead when breathing. The breathing stroke is very similar to the non-breathing stroke; direct body forward.

    The underwater armstroke is critical because it must be consistently good form to maintain an even, non-tiring rhythm. Develop a full motion underwater technique and arm exit-recovery, and make it consistent. Excessive pressure during pull/push is wasteful and may tire the arms; momentum for recovery should rely on undulation.

    KEEP THE ELBOWS UP DURING PULL. Because the arms are in sync with each other, the acceleration created by the proper bent arm position is particularly dramatic. ELBOWS STAY UP THROUGH END OF PUSH which aids arm exit for recovery. Efficient arm exit is important for not tiring the arms and maintaining speed. Palms face back and up on exit. The arms roll during recovery and elbows finish slightly high (although palms more down with little roll can be easier on shoulders and is ok). Land forward and begin downward undulation with head and shoulders.

    The hands/arms do not need to enter the water close together. Anchor with outsweep and then immediately arc each arm in the proper shape WITH ELBOWS UP and PRESS FLAT PALMS TOWARDS BELLY WITH MOST RESISTANCE FROM START TO FINISH. Do finish early as you would for other strokes. Many swimmers bring hands together quickly on the pull before getting to the chest and then push back and out. Others user a wider less inward angled pull. When the hands get the closest to each other, throw the arms out into exit-recovery.

    Hands enter with slightly separated thumbs and forefingers touching first; hands go in slightly angled for the very short outsweep motion. Forearms and hands are relaxed on recovery but anchor early. There must be no pause in arm and hand motion once the water is entered.

  4. #4
    Very Active Member Alicat's Avatar
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    Wow!
    You guys are really intense about breaking down the stroke! I remember learning to swim fly as a young kid --10-12 years old and what I recall was that I was disqualified A LOT like most others who have learned to swim fly!

    Here is just an observation about when I swim fly. My timing, stroke consistency, undulation, and energy are severely taxed at the start of the season. I take this to mean that I am not in shape. It's not the fitness body, but the swimmer's body that everyone has at the start of the season.

    In short, I would be able to swim fly OK for 25 yards, then hyperventilate at the end of the 25. As my endurance built up in the season, I would be able to work the turns and dolphin kick, and get a pretty decent 100 fly down. For me there is a direct correlation between my endurance and my ability to swim fly.

    No(OK, most) drills in the world would not help --and personally, I find most one arm fly drills useless. Can you cop a one arm fly in a race? It's 33.33333...% of the stroke (meaning the other arm and kick are the other 66.6666...7% of the stroke.) Feel free to put this in the "for the what it's worth dept."

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    Active Member gjy's Avatar
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    Breaking down the stroke, I think, has become a necessity. I'm really happy with how my other strokes are coming so far given that 98% of my mental effort has been on strugglefly. Besides, the mental stimulation has kept things from getting boring and the struggle has been just as motivating as the other successes.

    I think when I started butterfly I was in reasonable swimming shape already, other than for fly. And I think I'm in adequate fly shape now but it is still just about as hard physically because I keep trying new things (wrong).

    At first I relied on my strong arms but they did tire because I never otherwise do exercise that corresponds to the push/pulling other than freestlye. I can see how machine work would really benefit competitive flyers.

    Now my arms don't seem to tire but there is still the same problem of losing lift when tired. I think the real problem is that the undulation and breathing becomes more labored. I'm never even slightly sore anywhere afterwards and I can always continue freestyle after my fly has worn out. I have been wondering what part of me is getting the most fatigued. I guess it's everything.

    It's nice to see someone else has an equally bad attitude about drills!

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    Very thorough, gjy. I've become rather obsessed with fly lately (I enjoy no stroke half as much), and I'll definitely be coming back to this breakdown. Thanks.

    One thing, though. You write, "There must be no pause in arm and hand motion once the water is entered." My coach is very big on emphasizing the glide, after your hands enter but before you begin the pull. Not for a sprint, obviously, but generally. It does make the stroke a bit less tiring, and for me, being able to have a good glide in any stroke makes me feel like I'm doing it right, like I'm getting good propulsion.

    Also, for keeping the head low (which I am very bad at, both in fly & breast), I'm a big fan of breating to the side. I know a lot of people don't like it, but I think it's worth trying. Also, doing so makes it easier to keep an eye on the person you're racing.

    Any thoughts on these?

    Thanks again.

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    Very Active Member Matt S's Avatar
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    Whoa,

    gjy,

    Are you a mechanical engineer or a forensic psychologist? I'm pretty technically oriented and pay attention to details, but I can't hold a candle to you.

    A couple of observations:
    1) Pick a race or a distance you are training for.
    2) Pick a style of fly and stick to it.

    Yes, there is a one beat (kick) and there is a two beat style of fly. The first is oriented more towards distance fly, the latter to sprinting. The important point is to appreciate the effect of tiring quickly while swimming fly (aka "the piano falling on your back"). This means trying to learn how to swim a 50 will drive you to makes choices that are substantially different that trying to learn how to swim a 200. Some will argue that all you need is conditioning to use the same style. Maybe, if you are young and you have National caliber potential. For those of us who are old and mediocre at any age, recognizing that they are different races is the key to enlightenment. I chose to learn how to do a 200 fly (in the words of Emmett Hines, turn myself into "that guy"), and it drove me towards a single beat, distance style. Your description of your butterflying odessey kinda sounds like you're trying to shift back and forth between sprint and distance techniques.

    Lots of people have lots of different theories about how to swim fly. They are not all the same. Since you sound like you are going to coach yourself, I would recommend picking one coach, book author, or school of thought, and sticking with their methods until you feel you have learned their basic style. Same comment as above about mixing techniques. Wait until you can do basic vanilla well before you start experimenting.

    Personally, I prefer the Total Immersion school of thought. You can read a couple of excellent articles describing its basics at Emmett Hines' Team website. Go to www.h2oustonswims.org Then click on "Articles." Then look for "Slip Slid'n Away" and "Vive le Papillon!" (in that order. After the first one, you will know who "that guy" is.) With this style, I have learned how to do a 200 fly pretty much any time I want without feeling like I've climbed Mt. Kilamanjaro for 2 days afterward. Also, I have used this technique to teach brand new age group swimmers how to fly in a brief 9 week summer rec league season. A few keys points:
    - Swim with your body, not your arms. I've even gone so far as to not push all that hard with my arms, and just sort of let them tag along with the body dolphin (udulation) motion.
    - Breath low and early, all the better to fit in with the body dolphin, and enable you to breath more often without shredding your stroke.
    - GLIDE! This is my key to a 200. We don't breath every stroke because our hips will sink. But, this will make us breathless after a while. Just as freestylers learn how to breath without disrupting their stroke, so they can breath every 2 strokes when they want to, so too should flyers learn how to breath every stroke. How to do this? There is another way to fight sinking hips. Glide a little longer while pressing your chest deeper. This will float your hips after every stroke, which will let you breath every stroke, which you will need to glide just that little bit longer. It's slow, but it works.
    - If you are not already, practice your body dolphin with fins, at least part of the time. This will give you stronger positive feedback when you body dolphin properly, i.e. you will notice small improvements more easily. Then take off the fins, and try to make it feel the same with nekkid feet.
    - Feel you stroke. You have done an incredible job breaking down your fly into its component parts. Your attention to detail is remarkable. You can also learn by focusing your attention onto how the stroke as a whole "feels." This might help you gain a sense of flow, and address the jerky quality you have mentioned.
    - Drill: try some more one-arm fly. It is an excellent drill for the "pressing your chest" part of the stroke. A few years ago, Michael Phelps wrote an article for Swim magazine describing how he does it, and he also indicated it was his favorite drill.

    Good luck with all of this. Let us know how you do.

    Matt

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    Active Member gjy's Avatar
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    Matt, I'm someone well versed in "divide and conquer." I got tired of getting things wrong so I worked extra hard in the end. Obviously, I still made some assumptions.

    As far as having a target of "race or distance," I'm strictly distance and my immediate fly goal is: two laps so I have a sweet looking enjoyable 200 medley. And I want to feel good about myself when I watch Phelps and company on TV. I primarily want to race people I can beat so I won't be taking on Masters. For the time being. (Should a pool facility pop up in the immediate vicinity, it could be a whole new game.)

    Two kick fly: I had an astounding swim for me on Monday. After having isolated my target positions (the Phelp's jpeg above), in particular those frames with the arrows (the entire body position is key in them), I got control of my undulation and suprisingly my legs too - beyond my wildest dreams for this point in time. I was able to be fully conscious of my legs at all times and in full control. I was able to be aware of them going up at the right time and well out of the water, not to mention being aware of my high butt position throughout the stroke. That second fly kick is now magic. Kicking at the right time makes recovery a breeze. No more difficulty recovering the arms, ever, that is, when the undulation is right. I don't think my legs ever tire and I can get terrific thrust out of that kick. Yet it's supple; I can't imagine doing without it. On the other hand, I have to defer to you until I can do a 200. Right now, I can see a good 50 is in reach. By the way, I'm not even close to being young. But not yet to the age where I'll start to lose strength.

    "[You're] trying to shift back and forth between sprint and distance techniques."

    It's not intentional. I do understand all of your points. Yes I think I am trying to satisfy both sprint and distance techniques at the same time. I think I'm doing that for all strokes, however amatuerish, except for breastsroke. Everything is now improving constantly except my breaststroke is at a standstill - it is my next stroke to require special attention - but, unlike all the others, it's gotten so mundane.

    "Wait until you can do basic vanilla well before you start experimenting."

    I agree and that has been my goal, most of the time. You are right about getting one source of info. However, I got afraid of going with one book when I discovered, midstream, that there were many approaches and apparent disagreements. I chose, maybe wrongly, to try to get the variety of opinion, look at video, and try what I think makes sense. There are advantages to both approaches. I've enjoyed trying to sort things out and certainly if it was possible for me, I would have gotten an instructor. Even though I generally hate drills. Which is another reason why I didn't jump at a book. They seem to be 99% drills. This is, admittedly, my weakness.

    Woops:

    "Drill: try some more one-arm fly. It is an excellent drill for the "pressing your chest" part of the stroke. A few years ago, Michael Phelps wrote an article for Swim magazine describing how he does it, and he also indicated it was his favorite drill."

    I did once try one-arm for only one or two strokes but I guess I didn't understand what I was supposed to be accomplishing. Now that you've told me, and provided a great endorsement, I will try it for real next time. I had given up more quickly than some of the other drills because it appeared that it would take a fair amount of time just to master the drill. Some of this stuff seems like a catch-22. You need to learn how to do the stroke before you can do the drill and vice-versa. Some of it seems, well, experimental. If Phelps was doing the drill long after he mastered butterfly, then maybe the drill isn't so easy. (Darn, didn't you say little kids do it?) Anyway, how long should it take me before I can do the drill properly using the given explanation?

    Matt, I appreciate your comments and I think all of your recommendations are very good. I will provide updates if I am able to continue swimming over the next several weeks (hard to say) and if I think I might be able to contribute. Thanks again!

  9. #9
    Active Member gjy's Avatar
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    some_girl:
    "I've become rather obsessed with fly lately"

    Obviously you are my kind of girl!

    "One thing, though. You write, "There must be no pause in arm and hand motion once the water is entered." My coach is very big on emphasizing the glide, after your hands enter but before you begin the pull. Not for a sprint, obviously, but generally. It does make the stroke a bit less tiring, and for me, being able to have a good glide in any stroke makes me feel like I'm doing it right, like I'm getting good propulsion."

    It is so interesting you brought this up now. First: What I tried to do was be very specific in what I think is right (about everything) given that I came across contrary advice on several things and some really bad and poorly written advice, not to mention my own apparent misunderstanding of a few people's advice. I'm not sure I came across anyone (other than in a discussion - and now Matt/TI) who suggested "gliding" but I may have; I did come across an article that said that any pause (we are all talking about the same point in the stroke) hurt times based on a (probably informal) analysis. So I "settled this" with my own analysis which may well be wrong. I made my final conclusions based on what I see in video and how "gliding" works for me (if I do it). I haven't noticed anyone gliding in a video, maybe it's hard to see. I have "glided" somewhat when attempting slower-motion butterfly, but I consider that just a drill since my undulation is scaled down when I go slow. At regular speed, for one thing, it seems that your undulation is more dependent on synchronized arm with body motion. If you were to stop moving your arms and hands (and glide) during outsweep what is the rest of your body doing? Look at Phelps in outsweep, above in frame 3. His arms are above his head, his butt is up, and his legs are down. He's not close to a reasonable "glide" position. Can you give me a description of what your arms, head, torso, and legs are doing while you are gliding? I assume you would be gliding on every stroke so that you have a rythym by which your body "resumes" its undulation in a manner to remain in sync with your armstroke? (But Matt says no - every other stroke.)

    Now for the reason why I said it was so interesting you brought this up. Last week I started working intensely on my undulation during the pull and push. I knew this was going to be my breakthrough and that is why I drew up those pics last week. My long workout/swim on Monday this week exceeded my fly expectations tenfold. I finally have a butterfly stroke, albeit a bad one. Anyway, my significant problem at the moment is in the "outsweep to pull". For outsweep, I'm coming head-shoulders down under my arms (Phelps frame 3 again) but not as far as Phelps I hope. Coming down more than I had before is giving me a pause during outsweep sometimes which is playing havoc with my timing. My arms get behind and out of sync. Actually, I've had this problem ever since I started really working the undulation. I've smoothed things out now so I can overcome it much of the time but not always. I feel like I am in an awkward position for my arms. I was doing the fly my best ever by far on Monday but by the end of a long workout, my arms got very tired going between the outsweep and pull and the delay killed my syncronization. I don't know if I forgot how to pull or if my chest is too far below my arms or what. If anyone has any ideas to offer, please do. Maybe I need to consider changing my pull style to come in towards the chest early instead of more to the sides, assuming that could make it any easier.

    some_girl:
    "for keeping the head low (which I am very bad at, both in fly & breast), I'm a big fan of breathing to the side. I know a lot of people don't like it, but I think it's worth trying. Also, doing so makes it easier to keep an eye on the person you're racing."

    I will try this next time out, hopefully at the end of the week. I became aware of this technique from a video file a few months ago and I have been curious ever since. Almost every lap (or two) I do of fly I have a plan on one thing to work on before I start. This has yielded some ugly fly but it's the way I drill. Twenty times, I started to swim with the intention of thinking about my breathing but I almost always reverted to working on something else. For a long time I suspected that my exhalation was not good. When I was conscious of my exhalation (which I found suprisingly hard to be conscious of), I didn't like it because it seemed strained. Eventually, (I gave up "trying" and) I decided that breathing was probably not my problem. I breathe in ok in breastroke and it doesn't matter whether I go high or low. My actual breastroke style is a very low breathing position. But I breathe out different in breastroke than I can for freestyle. For freestyle, I blow out harder the moment before I surface and this is what I want to do for butterfly if I can. For butterfly, I get ample breathing height (and I think my head position is ok - half down - if not, I'm almost sure I can fix it), but I wonder if there is any chance I can improve my exhalation by turning my head and tricking my lungs into acting like freestyle breathing. I wonder if someone is going to tell me that my idea makes no sense.

    Thanks for asking and I will fill you in with my first impressions of sideways breathing. I may only do it for two or three laps the next time out (at the end of the week). I'm in a big learning period right now and I'm loving it.

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    "Obviously you are my kind of girl!"

    Thanks. My teammates think I'm nutty because now when we get to do choice, I'll almost always do fly. Then again, they are happy to do breaststroke, which I do think is the dullest stroke ever. Then again, I'm all legs, so I don't think I was built for breast. Anyway, on to the actual points. (Warning: I am by no means a butterfly queen, so if someone else tells you I'm wrong, I'm probably wrong.)

    On gliding:

    "I did come across an article that said that any pause (we are all talking about the same point in the stroke) hurt times based on a (probably informal) analysis."

    Well, I certainly don't glide when I sprint. But when I am swimming a workout and especially when I am working on my fly, the glide is a lifesaver. I can't really sprint for longer that 50y right now (though eventually I want to swim the 100 fly--with luck by November), so the glide lets me add distance and reassures me both by letting me know that I can get through a good distance on the fly and by letting me check my propulsion and balance.

    "Can you give me a description of what your arms, head, torso, and legs are doing while you are gliding? I assume you would be gliding on every stroke so that you have a rythym by which your body "resumes" its undulation in a manner to remain in sync with your armstroke?"

    The glide is right after my arms enter the water, before the outsweep begins, and after the kick. My body is essentially in a streamline, except for my arms, which are shoulder width apart. It's like a stretch before I begin my pull. Then I press my chest and begin my pull. So I'm not constantly undulating, there is a pause when I glide. Then again, I have been told to keep my undulation flat-ish, not to dive too deep, and I have been given to understand that Phelps tends to go deeper than many. So we may just be learning different styles. (Or I could just be retarded. Always a possibility.)

    On side breathing:

    Let me know how you like it. One warning, when you first do it, your arms may feel uneven and you may not get them both out of the water at the same time. That stops after ten lengths or so.

  11. #11
    Very Active Member SwiminONandON's Avatar
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    Fly is my favorite, too.

    Now I didn't read all of the entries here, because I am at work and don't have hours on end to read all this ...

    Gliding ... in every stroke you should have some glide, even if it's brief. Your arms should fully extend. Otherwise you start cutting off your stroke.

    Think of doing fly by leading with your head. The starts the whole stroke in my mind. The kick should start high in the ribs, not just in the hips. If you get your hips up you won't get too high in the water. You get higher in the water when your hips start sinking. You should just be tilting your chin forward to breathe (at least in essence).

    For me fly is all about keeping my hips up if I do that I can rip off serious yardage without breaking stroke ...

    I think if you have a solid stroke you should be able to swim fly for several hundred yards on end ... if you can do a 1,000 free you should be able to do a 500 (or more) fly at a nice easy pace ...

  12. #12
    Active Member gjy's Avatar
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    Heather, and everyone, I'm sorry for being so wordy. I typically look at writings that are brief and to the point and avoid the opposite. But this time I took on the whole big topic at once. And even more than that, my purpose (in taking "hours on end") was to avoid what it was that I think had gotten me into trouble: explanations that could be easily misunderstood.

    I am a relative newcomer regarding the technical aspects of swimming so I hope to learn a lot from everyone here. Fly is the only stroke I have spent hours on end trying to learn the technical aspects.

    Gliding: Is this primarily a TI thing? Is it TI against everyone else or does the majority agree that there is "gliding" in all strokes? Right now, it appears to me that "gliding" makes sense in breaststroke only and only when one is conserving energy. Perhaps I have a wrong impression of what gliding is. I think what one means by gliding is: "all body motion is essentially stopped when the body is in its most streamlined position". In freestyle and backstroke, I don't think one should ever stop their rear arm, legs, etc, from moving (should they?) and I'm not even sure about the leading arm. I just slow everything down to conserve energy, I never really glide (or stop anything). As for the fly, I would love to see a picture or video of the recommended gliding position(s). Some_girl said she does not stop undulating during her glide so perhaps gliding means just the arms stop moving. Matt says you alternate between a gliding stroke and a non-gliding stroke which sounds like it would be in conflict with rhymthic undulation.

    Heather:
    "The kick should start high in the ribs, not just in the hips. If you get your hips up you won't get too high in the water. You get higher in the water when your hips start sinking. ..."

    I took me a while and I thought you might be disagreeing with something. Then I realized you were talking about the butt elevation on the SECOND kick. Now it makes a lot of sense.

  13. #13
    Very Active Member SwiminONandON's Avatar
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    I didn't mean that I didn't have time to read it as an insult ... sorry if you took it that way ...

    As for the gliding issue ... Your entire body should not stop. The glide is very brief, and perhaps better described as full extension ... you should fully extend your body, your legs should always be kicking in essence ... On free your arm should fully extend before starting your pull it's a brief pause, glide, your legs should still be kicking ... on back stroke it's a bit different but your arm should fully extend before you start your pull and again you should be kicking the whole time ... on breast the pause/glide is more noticeable but in a sprint it shouldn't be as noticeable as in a 200.

    My sprint fly is different than my 200 fly. I glide more in my 200 and let my hips get up ... in a 50 fly, I'm not gliding much, but still am making sure that my arms fully extend ... does that all make more sense?

    It's not arms enter the water, pause ... ok, keep going ... it's more like arms into the water, full extension, press, pull ... does that even make sense?

    I tend to ramble, too ..

  14. #14
    Active Member gjy's Avatar
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    "It's not arms enter the water, pause ... ok, keep going ... it's more like arms into the water, full extension, press, pull ... does that even make sense?"

    It more than even makes sense; perfect sense. And thanks for all the explanations. You are definitely describing the way I've been working on my freestyle. It may be a very subtle difference from what one calls gliding and another doesn't. Even when I'm stretching "full-extension" I have slight positional movement in my hand and arm which I tend to think of as continual movement. It is always the slowest point in the stroke. For backstroke, my stretching is really completed as my hand and arm enters the water. I've probably done the least amount of study on backstroke so I need to revisit this.

    Matt hit on something when he noted that I wasn't distingishing between sprint and longer distance technique, rather I was mixing the two. He was right as I had purposely been trying to simplify and generalize things (which is the way I had been getting most of my written information). It may have sounded at times like I was discussing sprint technique, but in fact, as I've been working hard to improve technique on all my strokes, I have almost forgotten doing any sprinting. Until I work at sprinting, I am not ready to sprint or race against anybody (good).

    I'm also wondering if I have a misunderstanding of what sprinting is. I had assumed a sprint was a full-on-onslaught at top speed. Say a 50 would be all sprint and a 100 would be nearly all sprint. A 200, would be a sprint in the last 50 or less (perhaps, as needed). And a triathlete does not sprint. Am I close to what everybody else considers a sprint?

    -----------------------------------------------------------

    I can't believe I made so many long posts and I didn't take your honesty about your time (hours on end) as any kind of insult. You speak the truth.

    -----------------------------------------------------------

    This Ande guy must be a lot of fun. But I wouldn't want to swim with him.

  15. #15
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    I'd need to see your fly, above and below the water to discover flaws and make effective stroke suggestions

    My general suggestions for beginning butterflyers are to:

    + Flatten out your stroke,

    + keep your hips near the surface,
    take small soft kicks
    deemphasize your kick, little bitty kicks with incorrect timing won't slow a swimmer down as much as poorly timed big kicks

    + focus on moving your arms fast

    + keep your head neutral, if you head goes up that means the other end of your body goes down which creates more drag.

    + DON'T swim fly slow

    + learn kick fly with out a board

    + work on fly kick in streamline position off each wall

    + do one arm fly drill

    + watch the finest flyers and copy them

    + relax

    + stay smooth when fatigue sets in

    + don't blast too hard on the first half of your race

    + use short phrases of things to focus on rather long essays

    Ande
    Last edited by ande; August 26th, 2005 at 10:28 AM.

  16. #16
    Very Active Member Matt S's Avatar
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    Small Disagreement

    I'd like to quibble slightly with Ande on one minor point. He advocates never swimming fly slowly, and learning from the finest flyers. That is fine advice if you are already capable of swimming fly easily for the your target distance. If finishing is not a primary concern, and going as fast as you can is, I agree. (And BTW everyone can learn something watching Michael Phelps' fly.)

    Just like Bud observed, I started down the path to my 200 fly by watching the swimmers in their 60s and 70s swim that race. As Emmett would call them "that guy." The key things I observed were them breathing every stroke, gliding to float their hips, and slow turnover.

    I think a common fallacy is that the only thing we mere mortals need to do to be our best is to try to be "like Mike" as much as possible. I disagree. We're not as young; we're not as talented, and we don't have the hours to train like they do. Certainly, we can learn a lot from them, but slavishly following their methods and training habits is a great way to court injury, and gloss over fundamental techniques we may have missed.

    Matt

  17. #17
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    Ande wrote:

    DON'T swim fly slow
    Why not? I find it helps me isolate & work on various bits of my stroke better than fast fly, and it certainly beats one-armed, which, no matter how much others may like drills, never FEELS like fly to me. I use slow fly to think about things.

    Anyway, gjy, I like your long essays. Short commands are nice to have to remember, but I always think of them as ways to remember the fuller essayistic explanations. You know, because often they aren't enough to tell you why, and without a why . . .

  18. #18
    Very Active Member Seagurl51's Avatar
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    Gjy---Wow. That is one of the best written explainations of fly I have ever seen. Had to read it very slowly, but it makes so much sense. The pictures helped by leaps and bounds.

    This thread is soo informative. My fly is terrible and I have learned so much just sitting here and reading. I can't wait to get into the pool tomorrow and start working.

    One question though...to anybody who'll listen ....any tips for keeping your hips up (that's one of my major problems)? What about doing fly with a pull buoy?

  19. #19
    Very Active Member Matt S's Avatar
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    AAACK!

    Fly with a pull buoy? Blasphemer!

    Seriously, a pull buoy would prevent you from doing the one thing that will keep your hips up during whole stroke swimming. Think of you body like a very long roller coaster. You can't keep your shoulders elevated all the time because then your hips will sink. BUT, if you undulate or "body dolphin" your body, like a long roller coaster going over hills and valleys, your shoulders can be up while your hips are down, and you balance yourself by having your shoulders down when you need to get your hips up. Then, you time your breathing and arm recovery for when your shoulders are near the top of the hill, and make a point of pressing your shoulders down when you are not breathing and recovering. Voila, you have balance and high hips.

    For a better explanation go to www.h2oustonswims.org, click on "Articles" and read "Slip Slid'n Away" (and don't miss the sequel "Vive le Papillon!") You'll be swimming fly, and humming La Marseillaise, in no time.

    However, if you use a pull buoy, you CAN'T body dolphin properly because you CAN'T lower your hips. Moreover, your stroke will be all arms, when the real secret to fly is to use the body dolphin and your large abdominal muscle groups, and let your smaller arms come along for the ride. About the only thing a pull buoy would do for you is make you more likely to hurt your shoulders. The toy you definitely want to use is a pair of fins. Especially when you are first learning to body dolphin, the fins will be invaluable emphasizing the effect of the kind of undulation you want to achieve.

    Matt

  20. #20
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    I have to agree with Matt. Pull-buoy on fly is not good. Fins are a good way to learn the undulation.

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