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Learn to Swim Butterfly: Hip-Delay Butterfly Drill

Hip-Delay Butterfly is the next one of our drills to learn how to swim butterfly. The previous drill in this series was Stoneskipper.

Hip-Delay Butterfly teaches you the movements and the timing of the butterfly arm recovery. Once you have mastered this drill, you’ll have practiced all the movements needed to swim butterfly.

A novice swimmer who practices the hip-delay butterfly drill

As you can see below, you do a kind of butterfly stroke where you move slowly and include pauses in the arm stroke.

To do so, you add a few body dolphins after both the underwater arm sweep and after the arm recovery.

Adding a few body dolphins after the arm sweep gives you time to bring your shoulders toward the water surface, and makes the arm recovery easier.

Video Demonstration

The following video illustrates the Hip-Delay Butterfly drill:

How to do the Drill

  • Push off the wall in a prone position, with your arms extended forward, your hands shoulder-width apart, your palms facing downward and your head in line with the trunk.
  • Execute two hand-lead body dolphins.
  • At the end of the second body dolphin, first slide your arms to the corners, then sweep your arms backward in the water as described in the Stoneskipper drill.
  • At the end of the underwater arm sweep, your arms should be extended sideward and backward, at a 45° angle with your body. Your palms should be facing up.
  • You will typically have sunk a few inches below the water surface. Execute a few head-lead body dolphins (aim for two or three) to get your upper body and especially your shoulders close to the water surface again.
  • Your shoulders should clear the water at the end of the body dolphins. Start the arm recovery at that moment. Lift your arms out of the water and hover them forward, a few inches above the water surface.
  • Rotate your arms while moving them forward, so your palms are facing down again at the end of the recovery.
  • Drop your arms in the water and start a new drill cycle.

Additional Tips

Getting the timing right for the start of the arm recovery takes some practice. The right moment to start the recovery is when your shoulders clear the water, after you have released your chest at the end of a body undulation.

At first, it will take a few body dolphins after the arm sweep to move high enough in the water for your shoulders to clear the water. With practice, the drill should become easier, and you will be able to reduce the number of body dolphins needed between the arm sweep and the arm recovery.

To reduce the number of head-lead body dolphins required for your shoulders to clear the water, avoid getting too deep in the water at the end of the underwater arm sweep.

Don’t try to recover your arms forward if your shoulders are still underwater. The density of the water will make it impossible to lift your arms out of the water.

If you still have trouble recovering your arms, perhaps they are too close to your sides at the end of the arm sweep. The sweep should finish with your hands about one foot away from your sides and not with your hands directly at your hips.

Inhale when starting the underwater arm sweep, and exhale for the rest of the drill cycle. Keep your head low while recovering your arms forward.

Keep your arms relaxed during the recovery. In fact, you should be able to do the whole exercise in a relaxed manner.

Stay close to the water surface as you do the body dolphins (or swim butterfly). Remember that the deeper you go, the higher you will need to rise again to get your chest and arms above the water surface.

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.

Good luck!