The dolphin kick and body undulation are basic swimming techniques of the butterfly stroke. To swim the butterfly with ease, these techniques must be mastered.
Furthermore, incorporating the butterfly stroke arm movements becomes easier once you have mastered these two techniques.
For these reasons, we have put together the following swimming drills that you can use to practice the body undulation and dolphin kick.
How to Do the Body Undulation and Dolphin Kick
Let’s quickly explain how the body undulation and dolphin kick should be performed in the drills further below:
- Initially, you float in the water in the prone position. The head is neutral, and the face is turned down. The legs are held together, and the feet are extended.
- The arms are either extended forward or held at the sides.
- Now you initiate the body undulation. You press the chest down in the water and release it.
- As you release the chest, press the hips down. Then release them.
- As you release the hips, press the chest back down, and so on.
- As the hips move down, the upper legs follow along, and the knees bend.
- As the hips move up, the upper legs follow along, and you perform the kick by extending the knees and feet.
We will now cover the drills to practice the body undulation/dolphin kick. To get started, we will use swimming fins.
Assume a prone position, and float face down on the water’s surface. Extend your arms forward, holding a kickboard.
Perform the body undulation and dolphin kick movements as described above.
Perform a few body undulation/dolphin kick cycles. Pause to breathe. Start again, and so on.
Set the kickboard aside. Push off from the wall to glide underwater in a streamlined prone position, holding your arms at your sides.
Perform a few body undulation/dolphin kick cycles. Then, pause to breathe. Start again at the wall, or better yet, try to resume undulating/kicking underwater from your current location.
Assume a prone position, and float face down on the water’s surface. Hold your arms at your sides.
Perform body undulation/dolphin kick cycles, pausing regularly to breathe.
This particular drill is known as the head-lead body dolphin drill, also part of our main series of drills for learning the butterfly stroke.
Push off from the wall to glide underwater in a streamlined prone position, but now extend your arms forward.
Perform a few body undulation/dolphin kick cycles. Then, pause to breathe. Resume the drill at the wall, or better yet, try to resume it from your current location.
Assume a prone position, and float face down on the water’s surface with your arms extended forward.
Perform body undulation/dolphin kick cycles, pausing regularly to breathe.
Once you can easily perform the above exercises with swimming fins, practice them again but without fins.
This will probably be difficult initially because you lose the propulsion from the fins, and the kick technique is a little different.
Instead of going directly from practicing with fins to practicing without, you can also try using shorter fins for a while, such as Finis’ Zoomers.
A quick tip: You may have previously noticed that it is easier to perform the body undulation/dolphin kick drills underwater than on the water’s surface because you can use the water’s resistance against both the back and front of your body.
So if you find it challenging to perform the drills without fins on the water’s surface, you can focus on the underwater drills first.
It is important to practice the body undulation and dolphin kick until you can perform them well without fins. This will make learning the butterfly stroke much easier.
Assume a prone position, floating on the water’s surface with your face down and arms at your sides.
Perform three to five regular body undulation/dolphin kick cycles, and then pulse/release your chest/hips more forcefully so your head rises above the water’s surface.
Take a quick breath while your face is out of the water, and then let it slide back into the water.
Continue with a new series of three to five regular undulation cycles, then breathe again, and so on.
The goal is to incorporate the breathing body undulations with the non-breathing ones seamlessly.
Drill #11 is similar to drill #10 in that you are trying to incorporate a breathing body undulation after a few non-breathing ones. However, extend your arms forward in this drill instead of holding them at your sides.
Please remember the following points when performing the above exercises:
1) Some people find it easier to learn the body undulation and dolphin kick, and it seems girls learn these movements more quickly than boys. So don’t be discouraged if you don’t progress as quickly as you thought.
2) Avoid jutting your chin forward when pushing your chest down. The movements of the head should naturally flow into and even lead the movements of the upper body.
3) When practicing the drills on the water’s surface, do not push your chest down too far. Instead, it should move up and down about five inches.
The deeper you push your chest down, the harder it will be to bring it back up. So, stay close to the water’s surface.
4) You will find that you can perform the body undulation/dolphin kick more easily when your arms are extended forward than when they are resting at your sides. This is because your upper body is better anchored in the water when your arms are extended forward, increasing your leverage against the water.
5) Do not overemphasize the kick in relation to the body’s undulation. The body drives the legs, not the other way around.
6) Later, when you have mastered the technique, you can add more speed and power to the kick, a bit like cracking a whip.
7) If you have stiff ankles and can’t stretch your feet much, you should swim with fins on a regular basis. This stretches the ankles and makes them more flexible over time.
8) Don’t raise your head too high above the water’s surface for breathing, or your hips will sink lower, and it will be more difficult to bring them back up.
Raise your head just enough that your mouth is above the water’s surface to inhale quickly.
9) Keep your head in line with your torso; look down and slightly forward as you breathe.
10) Get in the habit of exhaling while your face is in the water. You will also do this when swimming a full-stroke butterfly.
11) You may notice an underwater wave sweeping over your knees while doing the dolphin kick. This is a good sign and means you are performing the movement correctly.
There you have it, 11 drills to practice the body undulation and dolphin kick! I hope you will find these drills as helpful as I did when I was learning the butterfly stroke.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below.
Learning Path for the Butterfly Stroke
Below is an overview of our series of articles on learning the butterfly stroke. Each article in this series contains one or more drills that have to be mastered. The current article is highlighted:
Once you have gone through all the steps of this learning path, you should be able to swim butterfly without any problems.
Wednesday 4th of October 2017
I am particularly grateful for all this advice.
As a bilateral below knee (double) amputee who also suffers from weak hands and forearms, utilizing my otherwise strong, but slightly overweight torso is - literally! - the way forward!!
Saturday 22nd of July 2017
DO NOT USE A KICKBOARD EVER WITH A DOLPHIN/FLY LEG KICK!!
You will damage your back as the flotation of the kick board puts your body in the wrong position.
Thursday 17th of November 2016
I was always told NEVER use a float when teaching butterfly kick.
Is there any documents supporting this, please.
Sunday 20th of November 2016
I have no idea.
Friday 18th of March 2016
I have a small squad with whom I am teaching butterfly.
Some grasp the two kick sequence instinctively.
But one or two of the swimmers are not including the lighter of the two kicks, which I often describe as a stabilizing kick. So, of course, their stroke becomes lumpy.
Has anyone found a way of helping these less instinctive swimmers to 'find ' that lighter kick in the sequence?