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Butterfly stroke is considered the second fastest stroke after the front crawl. Initially, there were only three swimming styles: crawl, breaststroke and backstroke. Butterfly was formed from breaststroke and requires a big deal of upper body strength. So butterfly stroke is physically demanding but at the same time swimmer can’t achieve good speed only by strength. It is known that butterfly is one of the most technically challenging swimming styles. Although the stroke is difficult, there is a significant improvement in speed. This is a style of swimming on the chest, in which the upper part of the body is raised above the water and both arms perform a wide, symmetrical and powerful stroke followed by the butterfly kick.
The correct technique is extremely important in the butterfly stroke. Many consider this style the most difficult to learn. The main difficulty is the simultaneous return of the arms and the whole body to its initial position, while also breathing at the same time. In other words, this swimming technique consists of a synchronized movement of arms and legs. According to Mark Young, «Butterfly stroke body movement is a continuous undulating action. When performed correctly, the movement provides the propulsion that needed to keep the overall stroke smooth».
In the initial position the swimmer is lying on the chest. Arms extended forward, legs extended backwards. The butterfly stroke has three major phases. It is the pull, the push, and the recovery. In the beginning swimmer must catch the water, so the hands sink slightly down and then split to the sides approximately shoulder-width. In the «pull» phase the pitch of the hands changes to a deeper angle with hands almost vertical. The «push» (phase pushes the palm backward through the water underneath the body. The «recovery» phase swings the arms sideways across the water surface to the front. The hands should enter into the water with the fingertips first.
The action of kicking creates a wave-like body movement when the swimmer moves through the water. The legs are held together to avoid loss of effort. The upbeat of the kick should come from the hip. Knees bend and then straighten on the downbeat. Feet pointing down. The rules do not indicate how many kicks per cycle a swimmer must perform. It depends on convenience, and usually two hits are made per cycle. Some athletes manage to combine butterfly arm movements with breaststroke leg movements. Such is quite natural, since the butterfly appeared as a kind of breaststroke around 1953. Until 2001, the rules did not forbid such combination. To this day, exceptions are allowed, although most swimmers now prefer wavy movements. There are two major functions of butterfly kick. Firstly, butterfly kick helps to balance the arm action. Secondly, it helps to provide some propulsion for the body. The swimmer will have a smooth and powerful body movement only if the leg kick matching with the arm action.
Usually, a breath is made on every stroke. This is the best option for long distances. You can take a breath at each stroke but this will definitely slow down your speed. Trained swimmers ensure that breathing and non-breathing cycles are equally fast, and therefore they can breathe every stroke. The sequence “two with a breath, one without” is also used by swimmers, which creates a lower load on the lungs. Also “every third” sequence is suitable for swimmers with well-developed lungs, especially on short distances. Some individual athletes may not take breath at all on short distances.
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