Learn to Swim Butterfly: Stoneskipper Drill

A novice swimmer who practices the stoneskipper drill for the butterfly stroke

Stoneskipper is a drill to learn to swim the butterfly stroke. It comes after Slide to the Corners in our series of butterfly stroke drills.

Stoneskipper lets you practice both the underwater arm sweep and the correct timing for breathing.

In fact, you can see this drill as combining hand-lead body dolphins, head-lead body dolphins and underwater arm sweeps.

Video Demonstration

The video below illustrates this butterfly drill:

Swimming Drill Instructions

  • Push off the wall and get into a horizontal position with your face down.
  • Extend your arms forward and shoulder width apart.
  • Execute two hand-lead body dolphins. Slide your arms outward to the corners at the end of the second undulation.
  • Release the pressure on your chest and start to sweep your arms backward as your chest rises.
  • Your hands should draw a keyhole shape in the water as they move backward during the sweep. Your hands first move backward and outward, then backward and inward below the chest, then backward and outward again at the end of the sweep. Your hands should be at your hips at the end of the sweep.
  • Execute two head-lead body dolphins.
  • During the second body dolphin, sneak your arms forward to their initial position. To do so sweep your hands forward along an imaginary line that runs below the middle of your body.
  • Stop to breathe after a few drill cycles.
  • Add breathing once you get the hang of the movements. To breathe, raise your head above the water surface, as your hands move toward your chest during the backward sweep.

Additional Tips

  • Don’t hold your breath, exhale continuously in the water.
  • You can use a swimmer’s snorkel at first to practice the drill without being distracted by breathing.
  • Swimming fins can also help.

Learning Path for the Butterfly Stroke

Below you will find an overview of our series of articles to learn the butterfly stroke.

Each article includes one or several drills/exercises to be mastered.

The current article, which is part of this series, is highlighted:

By completing the different steps of this learning path, you should soon be able to swim the butterfly stroke.

Good luck!

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