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Learn to Swim Butterfly: Easy Butterfly Drill

Easy Butterfly is a swimming drill to practice when learning the butterfly stroke. In this drill, you take a few strokes of butterfly at the beginning of a length, and repeat for as long as you can keep good form.

As soon as your form breaks down, you switch to either one of the body-dolphin drills or another less demanding swimming stroke; for example, front crawl (also called freestyle).

A swimmer practicing the Easy Butterfly drill for the butterfly stroke.

Swimming butterfly in this way allows you to avoid struggle and hence to swim longer distances with correct butterfly form.

Video Demonstration

The following video illustrates the Easy Butterfly drill:

Drill Instructions

  • Push off from the wall in a prone position with your arms stretched out in front of you, and perform a few non-breathing strokes of butterfly.
  • As soon as your form breaks down, switch to one of the body dolphin drills, such as Head-Lead Body Dolphin, Hand-Lead Body Dolphin or Slide to the Corners, or to a different swimming stroke and finish the length in that way.
  • Do the same on the next length.
  • Over time, try to increase the number of strokes of butterfly you can swim per length with good form.
  • Once you can perform this drill with good form and in a relaxed manner, add breathing. Typically, breathe every other stroke.
  • As you breathe, try to keep your head from rising too far above the water’s surface, so you don’t disrupt the rhythm of your body undulations.

Additional Tips

  • Always avoid struggle; only perform as many strokes of butterfly as you can with good form.
  • After switching to another swimming stroke or drill, complete the remainder of the length in a relaxed fashion, so that your muscles can recover and you can catch your breath.

Swimming Butterfly

After having practiced Easy Butterfly for a while, you can attempt to swim whole lengths of butterfly.

Given that butterfly is quite demanding, alternating lengths of butterfly with lengths of another swimming stroke is a good idea.

In the beginning, alternate one length of butterfly with several lengths of another swim stroke, so your muscles can recover and you can catch your breath.

For example, start with a ratio of three front crawl (freestyle) lengths to one butterfly length. Then, as your technique and endurance improve, you can decrease that ratio to two lengths of front crawl to one length of butterfly, and afterward decrease to a ratio of 1:1.

After a while, you might even want to attempt swimming several lengths of butterfly in a row. Just remember to swim only as much as you can do with good form, and avoid struggle.

Another area of experimentation is the ratio of breathing to non-breathing strokes you perform. For example, breathing more often requires more effort, as you have to lift your head and shoulders above the water, but on the other hand, you don’t get out of breath as quickly.

I discuss this in more detail in my article about breathing technique in the butterfly stroke.

Butterfly Swimming Video

Below you can see me swim butterfly in a relaxed fashion:


If you have successfully completed our series of swimming drills for the butterfly stroke, you should now be able to swim that stroke with relative ease. If so, congratulations! This is a great achievement!

Even once you can swim butterfly, it is wise to return to these drills from time to time to fine-tune your technique or simply as a warm-up before swimming the full stroke.

Also, do not forget to have a look at our series of drills to learn the other swimming strokes.

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!


Thursday 17th of January 2019

Thank you so much for all these!


Friday 18th of January 2019

You're welcome, Aly.

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