Originally published November 17, 2006
To swim really fast butterfly, you have to take advantage of every opportunity for propulsion. The place where most swimmers ignore this opportunity is… the second kick.
Misty Hyman said it best in her video: "I kick my hands IN, and I kick my hands OUT." This focus on the 2nd kick helped her win an Olympic Gold medal, but how many of us are going to be swimming like Misty? OK, probably only a couple people in the world over the next few years, but we can all take advantage of what she does to make ourselves faster.
Why Do It:
Learning to make better use of the second kick will help you achieve your fastest speed in butterfly.
How To Do It:
1. This drill is a combination of three drills: Single-Arm Fly… ButterFree… and leaving the wall with a strong underwater dolphin into two strokes fly with no breath. On each of these drills, the focus is on the hips and feet rather than on the arms.
2. The best way to work on this drill is to do 75s. The first 25 is Single-Arm Fly, focusing on the SECOND kick. You can also think of this as kicking your hands OUT of the water. By using only one arm, you can accomplish the drill without having your stroke fall apart.
3. The second 25 is ButterFree, which is simply freestyle arms with dolphin legs and body movement. This drill allows you to focus on the 2nd kick without having to struggle. It’s the same focus as on the first drill, but ButterFree begins to introduce more rhythm into the mix. As you can see in the video, the swimmers still aren’t totally consistent with the 2nd kick, but are working to improve.
4. The final 25 starts with four underwater dolphins. This is to make sure you’re focusing on the feet. Then go directly into two strokes of no-breath fly, focusing on the 2nd kick, or kicking the hands out.
How To Do It Really Well (the Fine Points):
By spending more time drilling rather than swimming, you have a chance to really pin-point where that second kick needs to come in. This is as much a mental exercise as a physical one. For those swimmers who have worked on developing a single-kick fly in order to swim an easier 200, that’s fine but in order to reach your potential for fast fly, a second kick is needed. While there have been some great swimmers who’ve done tremendous things with a single kick, the majority of champions use the second kick, so it’s worth developing.
If you’re having a tough time implementing this, here’s an easy little trick that should work well for you. Using stretch cords will require that you use the 2nd kick, or you simply won’t make it to the other end. Sure it’s a bit tough, but you can see that when our swimmer uses a SMALL second kick, she doesn’t make it. By using the larger second kick, she not only learns to swim faster, but accomplishes a goal IN practice, which makes her feel good… after the pain subsides.