What is Butterfly Undulation and Why is it Important?

What is Butterfly Undulation?

So what is Butterfly undulation? Well, Butterfly undulation is the up and down motion seen by swimmers while swimming butterfly. So we talked about long axis versus short axis strokes, long axis or Freestyle and Backstroke, short axis or Breaststroke and Butterfly. You undulate in both Breaststroke and Butterfly, as the axis is right above the swimmer’s hips, so they’re moving the body up and down around that axis instead of rotating from side to side as you would see in a long-axis stroke.

Why is Undulation Important?

Why is Butterfly undulation important? There’s really two primary reasons. The first one is, is it puts a swimmer in a stronger physical positioning to pull or move or water. The second one engages the hips and lower back for a stronger kick as well. So, overall undulation what it transfers to is a more powerful Butterfly stroke. So, if you were undulating, it’s still possible to fly, but it would look really really weird and super out of rhythm. Because what you would do is you’d put most of the body just up at the surface of the water at one time, but so you’re not getting plenty of the upward motion on the downward motion, so you’re going to be kicking like half water and a lot more air than you’re used to, so the kick is going to become super inefficient, your body line might look a lot better, but also the breath is going to be weird because you’re going to be super flat when you’re breathing so it’s going to be a little bit harder on your neck. So overall it’s possible to some fly without undulation but it doesn’t look good. It’s really hard to get those arms around back up to the top.

So why does it actually give you a stronger pull and kick? Well, if you think about it if you’re going to grab something up above you, so you put your hands up above your head, like you are just straight up with your fingertips right above your shoulder joint and you were to try to pull yourself up in a straight vertical line, versus if you put your hands in above you, but a little bit more forward, maybe at a 45 degree angle. You’re going to be a lot stronger pulling from this with a little bit of leverage from that diagonal angle, versus the one that straight above you trying to move the body, and traction it, tractioning it straight up. So, physically the pull gets stronger because you engage on the chest muscles by having a little bit of an angle on the body, versus if you were just straight flat, trying to pull down with your lats and then throw through the recovery point as far as the kick is concerned. The kick is better because you’re firing more of the muscles that are in your posterior chain your posterior chain is strictly just this fascicle line of muscles that connect together from your head down to your heels. So, in the strength and conditioning world they talk a lot about your posterior chain and keeping that strong, because we’re very anteriorly strong and prodominately muscularly endurance. So as a population we really build up our quads we do nice job with all of that, but a lot of times we lose the ability to seem like activate our glutes or have strong hamstrings. That you have a really strong front side of your body, but a less strong back side of your body that’s going to create an imbalance and that could give you further issues down the line. Whereas if you’re undulating what you’re doing is you’re forcing some back extension you’re also forcing a deadlifting type motion to happen, as you’re swimming Butterfly, which engages more of those muscles. So that way when you whip and you snap the feet down on your Down Kick, you get a more propulsive Down Kick than you would if you were flat. So you’re basically setting yourself up to be in a tenser position so that way when no whip like portion of the kick happens, you see a lot of benefit from it. The down kick of a dolphin kick is primarily responsible for the majority of the propulsion, but you’re still going to see an uptick in also the Up Kick as well, by having that undulation motion involved.