SwimmersBest Drill of the Month: Butterfly Breath Progression

By Torrey Hart
August 31st, 2019

SwimSwam thanks SwimmersBest for sponsoring “Drill of the Month.” This is a SwimSwam recurring feature that brings drills and idea submissions from various creative and innovative coaches all over the world.

This month’s drill comes to us from Michelle Kroll, director and Elite and Senior group head coach at Roadrunner Aquatics, located in Bakersfield, California. Kroll swam at Ventura College from 2006-2008 and was a two time All-American in multiple events. She then transferred to Cal State Bakersfield and swam from 2009-2011, graduating with a degree in kinesiology. Roadrunner was named a USA Swimming Silver Medal Club in 2015 and Bronze Medal Club in both 2016 and 2017.

“Roadrunner Aquatics focuses on developing technically correct and efficient strokes for our age group swimmers, especially early in the season,” Kroll said. “During a portion of this practice we did a progression of drills focusing on breathing ‘forward’ on butterfly. One of our cue words we use with our swimmers is ‘forward, not up!’ That helps the swimmers avoid getting vertical as they fatigue.’

Kroll offered three drills for butterfly:
1. Finishing Drill: “We use this drill to establish a good body line, undulation, as well as a high catch,” Kroll said. “However, the focus for today was keeping your chin low to the surface, and extending the neck forward as they begin their pull.” Swimmers should place their hands directly out in front of your shoulders, or slightly wider. As the swimmer starts their pull, they initiate their breath, focusing on maintaining their propulsion throughout the stroke.
2. Snow Angel Drill: “We used fins for this drill, maintaining a light flutter kick. We ask that they establish a good body line, with their hands set up in ‘position 11’ (arms extended directly in front of shoulders) before starting their catch and pull,” Kroll said. The breath should be low and quick, making sure the head is down before the slow recovery of the arms is complete. Focus should be on keeping the chin low to the surface, extending the neck, and staying forward with the breath.
3. Butterfly Arms + Flutter Kick into Fly: Keep the fins on again for this drill. “We like this drill to help teach a low, quick breath because the flutter kick helps stabilize the hips, which allows the athlete to stay a little bit lower in the water through your breath,” Kroll explained. Swimmers should maintain a quick flutter kick, focusing on breathing forward with their pull, and snapping their head back down. At 12.5 meters, have them switch to a dolphin kick while trying to maintain the same breath that they did while doing flutter kick.