Researched, produced, and prepared by Brent S. Rushall, Ph.D., R.Psy.


The following collage of sequences from some of the world's best butterflyers is presented as teaching aids in Dr. Rushall's Stroke Clinics. Each item is presented to show important features of the stroke that should be adapted to each individual's capabilities.

Mary T. Meagher (1979)

One of the commonest errors in many modern butterflyers is an entry that has the hands too close followed by a sideways breaststroke-like push. This sequence shows Mary T. Meagher positioning her hands to apply for backward almost immediately after entering. There is little inertial lag. As well in frame #3, an "elbows-up" type position is demonstrated. That facilitates significant power that will emanate from upper arm adduction. The application of force with the hand/forearm propelling-surface is evident.

The two side-view frames show the shallowness of the swimmer's body movement. Her shoulders must sink after breathing but in this case, that is minimal. Just after entry, the shoulders never drop below the torso, an action that is very different to the exaggerated movements of many of today's butterflyers. Frame #4 shows the very early orientation of the hands toward the rear as well as elbow bend. Frame #5 shows the elbow-up position, the elbows being higher than the shoulders and the hands.

Denis Pankratov at Atlanta

This sequence demonstrates a short-lived too-close arm entry. Frame #12 shows the hands turned out because the out-of-water approach to entry has swept inward rather than reached forward. In the next frame (#13) the hands have been reoriented backward to start applying direct force. Frame #14 shows a very quick setup of the hand/forearm propelling surfaces. Frames #15 and #16 exhibit the power that can be developed by strong upper arm adduction. The "cloudy" water trailing the propelling surfaces is drag turbulence.

The swimmer also exhibits good streamlining with his head being underwater and oriented toward the bottom of the pool. The shoulder depth, although more than that of Mary T. Meagher, is not exaggerated.

The first kick in the stroke cycle, one that provides propulsion and counterbalances the arm entry, is evident.

Susan O'Neill at Atlanta

In contrast to the two previous swimmers, Susan O'Neill's arms have moved very wide after entry but still do not provide direct propulsive forces. There is a substantial amount of time between entry and where effective force is finally demonstrated (frame #5). A large inertial lag such as this is fatiguing and adds considerable time to a performance.

The wide arm position also reduces the amount of productive medial rotation that can occur in the upper arms. Any "elbow-up" positions will be shallower than that which is possible from a longer reach forward (see Mary T. Meagher).

Although these four sequences are of the early part of the stroke, they are not meant to diminish the importance of the longest, most-direct push that can be achieved through adduction of the upper arms and use of the hand/forearm propelling surfaces. The distance forward achieved at the commencement of effective direct force application largely determines stroke length in butterfly. Mary T. Meagher and Denis Pankratov demonstrate long stroke lengths.

Butterfly sequences

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