Swimming and the Butterfly Stroke

Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps competes in the butterfly stroke.
i Streeter Lecka/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

Whether you are swimming competitively or for exercise, many strokes and styles take you from one end of the pool to the other. When reaping swimming's benefits, one of the best calorie-burners is the butterfly stroke. This powerful swimming stroke requires you to move your arms up and over to propel your body through the water. Always consult your physician before beginning a swimming program to ensure you are in good enough health to perform this exercise.

Swimming’s Benefits

Thanks to water’s natural buoyancy, swimming is a low-impact workout, which means even those with knee troubles can swim. Swimming offers many benefits to your body’s appearance, from toning your muscles to improving your posture. The butterfly stroke in particular requires very strong shoulders and arms, helping you to achieve more defined muscles. Swimming is also good for your heart, improving cardiovascular capacity and endurance.

Butterfly Arms

The butterfly stroke requires the coordinated movement of your arms and legs to propel you forward through the water. The stroke requires strong and flexible shoulders because you bring your arms up and around at the same time, dipping your hands in the water and rotating through the stroke repeatedly. Think of this as moving your arms in windmill fashion around and around as you move your arms through the water. This is where the term “butterfly” comes from -- you flap your arms or “wings” just like a butterfly. Your head remains in the water at all times, except when you need to lift your head up and take a breath.

Leg Movements

The butterfly stroke requires excellent coordination and timing to make the arms and legs match each other in the ideal rhythm. Your legs stay together as if joined at the ankles, and you kick your legs when your hands enter the water and again as your hands stay in the water. The legs kick as one unit, much like the tail of a fish, bending your legs to lift the feet out of the water and then straightening to submerge them.

Calories Burned

Swimming one hour of the butterfly stroke burns 649 calories in a 130-pound person, according to ShapeFit, a health and wellness resource. The breaststroke and swimming laps at a vigorous pace burn 590 calories per hour in the same size person while swimming at a leisurely pace burns 354 calories per hour for a 130-pound person.

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