5 Swimming Exercises for a BETTER Butterfly stroke

Did you know that Butterfly is the fastest (in terms of speed) of the 4 strokes? However, due to the high energy demands of the stroke, it falls behind Freestyle in the grand scheme of things. 

In today’s article, we’ll look at 5 Butterfly Stroke Swimming Exercises that you can do to become a FASTER Butterfly swimmer and close the gap between your Butterfly and Freestyle swimming speeds.

Dryland training is an effective way to strengthen important muscle groups used in swimming. For the butterfly stroke, you need ALL the muscles in the body working to complete it, so successfully completing specific Dryland training exercises will make you that much FASTER!

So, with that said, let’s take a look at 5 simple and advantageous Butterfly stroke swimming exercises that you can do practically anywhere.

5 Butterfly Stroke Swimming Exercises

1. Pull-Ups

If you’ve read any of my Dryland articles, you’ll know that I am a huge advocate of pull-ups. This is one of the best exercises for strengthening your upper back and lats, which play a critical role in helping you develop a really powerful pull in the water, even more so in Butterfly swimming. 

A strong pull helps to press your body out of the water during the Butterfly stroke and also plays an important role in building propulsion and explosiveness in the stroke.

Apart from being a great strength exercise, I also like the pull-up so much because of the basic and simple technique. Any swimmer can easily learn this exercise, and there is very little risk of injury.

The pull-up also has many variations, and you’ll never run out of options in terms of progression as you become stronger. Some advanced pull-up variations include weighted pull-ups and strict pull-ups.

Although beginners who are just starting with this exercise might have a hard time getting in just a few reps, I recommend starting with some more newbie variations, like negative pull-ups or resistance-band assisted pull-ups, to learn proper technique and build basic strength for the exercise if you are not yet strong enough.

2. Squat Jumps

As you probably already know, the legs play a critical role in swimming fast and efficiently. Despite being a big driver of propulsion in the kick, they are also required for powerful starts, push-offs, and underwaters. 

What’s more, in Butterfly particularly, the kick sets the rhythm for your entire stroke and is key for swimming efficiently. If your Butterfly kick isn’t good, your entire stroke will fall apart, especially on longer distances.

A Squat Jump is a great exercise for strengthening the primary muscles in the legs, namely the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. It also develops explosive power, which will come in handy for developing a powerful high-tempo kick and strong starts and push-offs.

With this exercise, I recommend using the bodyweight variation and adding more reps as you become stronger. Since the exercise isn’t as high-resistance as barbell back squats, you can do quite a few reps.

Work your way up to about 20-30 reps for a single set, and then maybe think about adding some weight by holding a dumbbell or medicine ball while performing the exercise. This will add extra resistance, which will help you become stronger and more explosive as time passes.

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Resistance band exercises to help with butterfly stroke swimming.

3. Push-Ups

The next exercise on the list is the push-up. Push-ups are great exercises for strengthening the chest, shoulders, and triceps—all important muscle groups for swimming

The chest plays a big role in the down sweep motion of the Butterfly pull, the triceps an important part in the arms exiting out of the water fast and explosively, and the shoulders an all-around important role in stroke rotation. (P.S. Keep your shoulders in mint condition with these 8 shoulder exercises)

Like the other exercises, the push-up has a couple of variations and can be adjusted to either be strength-specific or work on explosive power in your upper body. 

For strength reasons, you’ll want to focus on a standard bodyweight push-up with controlled and slow reps, or you can incorporate weighted push-ups if you are strong enough.

I recommend clapping push-ups to develop upper body explosiveness. This will teach you explosive mechanics and strengthen all the muscles mentioned above.

4. Plank

Core strength is very important with any stroke. In Butterfly swimming, the core is constantly required for trunk flexion during the dolphin kick. It also plays a further important role in stabilizing your stroke and maintaining a good body position, essential for reducing drag in the water.

The plank is one of my favorite core exercises for developing all-around core strength for swimmers. It targets all the different areas of the core and also helps develop great core stability. 

This exercise is also very basic and simple to learn. It has a couple of variations for progression as you become stronger. I recommend increasing the time you hold the plank until you reach about 5 minutes consistently before moving on to other variations.

Some of the advanced variations include placing your arms further in front of you to force your core to do more work, adding weight onto yourself through something like a weight vest or backpack, or, if you are looking for a more dynamic and advanced variation, consider ab-wheel rollouts, which are very similar but involve movement.

5. Resistance Band Butterfly Swimming:

What better way to improve your Butterfly pull than to practice the exact motion with higher resistance? That is exactly what resistance band butterfly swimming allows you to do. 

Resistance bands, known as stretch cords, generally allow for much higher muscle resistance than water. This allows you to practice your butterfly swimming mechanics at higher resistance levels to strengthen the muscles used when swimming and work on little technical aspects that you might struggle to pinpoint in the water.

For those of you who know your exact Butterfly stroke count for your races or at least for a 25 or 50, you can practice the upper body portion of these races by “swimming” it using your resistance band.

Keep in mind that resistance bands sometimes throw us off a bit, so maybe ask a teammate or one of your swimming buddies to watch you as you perform this exercise, at least until you’re sure you’re doing things right on land as well.


Butterfly is a tough stroke, and if you want to master it truly, you’ll have to master good swimming technique and develop some solid strength to execute your Butterfly races with speed and precision.

If you haven’t already, I highly recommend incorporating these simple but effective exercises into your Dryland routine. They’ll help strengthen important muscle groups and develop good explosive power. The best part? You can do them almost anywhere!

Read Part III of our mini Series for Dryland Workouts specifically for Backstrokers here!

About the Author:
Hey, I’m Benjamin — a competitive swimmer with many years of experience in the sport of swimming. I am very passionate about competitive swimming and love sharing my knowledge of the sport. I also run my own swimming website called SwimCompetitive.Com and love writing articles covering various swimming-related topics, including Dryland!

11 Responses

  1. This is a great blog site Thanks for sharing! I also love the FLY but I bet I’m not a fast swimmer as you are. I love dryland and I sure hope it will help me be stronger as a swimmer in the water!

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