5 Swimming Exercises for a BETTER Butterfly stroke

Did you know that Butterfly is actually the fastest (in terms of speed) of the 4 strokes — but due to the high energy demands of the stroke, it falls behind Freestyle in the grand scheme of things. That said, in today’s article we’ll be taking a look a 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 actually need ALL The muscles in the body working to complete it — so successfully completing specific Dryland training exercises for your Butterfly stroke 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.

The 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 to 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, another reason I like the pull-up so much is due to the basic and simple technique, meaning that pretty much 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 that are just starting out 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 in order 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 from obviously 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 absolutely 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 to not only strengthen all of the primary muscles in the legs, namely the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves but also to develop explosive power which is going to come in very handy for developing a powerful high-tempo kick, as well as strong starts and push-offs.

With this exercise, I recommend starting out using the bodyweight variation and then to add more reps as you become stronger. Since the exercise isn’t as high-resistance, as say 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 to become stronger and more explosive as time passes.

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3.) Push-Ups

The next exercise on the list is going to be the push-up. The push-up is a great exercise for strengthening the chest, shoulders, and triceps- which are once again all important muscle groups for swimming Butterfly. 

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 shoulder’s in mint condition with these 8 shoulder exercises)

Likewise the other exercises, the push-up also 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 doing either a standard bodyweight push up with controlled and slow reps or you can incorporate weighted push-ups if you are strong enough.

In terms of developing upper body explosiveness through the push-up, I recommend doing clapping push-ups. This will teach you explosive mechanics but will also strengthen all of the muscles mentioned above.

4.) Plank

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

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

This exercise is also very basic and simple to learn and has a couple of variations to use for progression as you become stronger. Personally, I recommend just increasing the time you hold the plank up 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 in order 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 involves 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, also known as stretch cords, generally allow for much higher resistance on your muscles than water would. This allows you to practice your Butterfly swimming mechanics at higher resistance levels in order to strengthen the muscles used when swimming, but also to 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 will be able to practice the upper body portion of these races by “swimming” it using your resistance band.

Keep in mind, 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 just until you’re sure you’re doing things right on land as well.


Butterfly is a really tough stroke and if you want to truly master it you’re not only going to have to get good swimming technique down, but you’re also going to have to develop some solid strength in order to execute your Butterfly races with speed and precision.

I highly recommend incorporating these simple but effective exercises into your Dryland routine if you haven’t already. They’ll help to strengthen important muscle groups and will develop some 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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