Swedish swimmer Sarah Sjöström is a butterfly powerhouse. With world records in the short course 50m butterfly and 100m butterfly, the 3-time medalist swims with the perfect balance of speed, power and proper technique. She makes butterfly look easy!

Whether you’re an experienced swimmer looking to refine your stroke or you’re a newbie who needs guidance on basic stroke mechanics, you can learn a ton from watching Sarah swim. Check out our analysis of her incredible butterfly technique!

Dolphin Kick

A proper dolphin kick is the foundation of good butterfly, the undulation driving the rhythm and power that moves a swimmer across the pool. It’s important to note that each swimmer is built differently, and there’s not one dolphin kick that works best for everyone. 

Related: How to Swim Butterfly with Perfect Technique

Sarah’s kick is relatively small compared to other swimmers, like Caeleb Dressel. This minimizes resistance and keeps her body streamlined during starts and turns — like a torpedo! She initiates her kick from her hips and doesn’t bend her knees a lot, which keeps her body in a relatively straight line. Remaining as flat as possible helps her move more quickly during sprints, such as the 50m and 100m butterfly.

Other swimmers find it feels better to initiate the kick from their hands or chest, making it more of a full-body movement, and that works too!

Hand Entry

If you need a lesson in perfect butterfly hand entry, Sarah Sjöström is your gal! Ideally, your hands will enter in line with your shoulders, at 11 and 1 on a clock, to maximize distance per stroke. Many people enter the water too wide or too narrow, but Sarah is just right.

Related: How Much Money Professional Swimmers Really Make

When her hands enter at precisely the right position, she sets herself up for a powerful pull, initiating an early vertical forearm right away and pulling straight back. You won’t see an S-curve pull in her stroke!

Related: Kristóf Milák 200m Butterfly World Record

After years of practice, Sarah can maintain her technique at all speeds — even when she gets tired!

Head Position

It’s really common for swimmers to lift their heads too high when breathing during butterfly. Why is this a problem? When your head is too high, your hips drop, increasing drag and making it tougher to swim fast.

Credit: Mine Kasapoglu & ISL

Related: How to do a Breaststroke or Butterfly Turn

Sarah keeps her head low during each breath. She lifts her head just enough so her chin clears the surface, takes a breath and immediately moves her head back down when she’s done breathing. This breathing pattern keeps her hips up so she can cut through the water as fast as possible!

Dryland Training

Like other Olympians, Sarah puts in work at the gym, and it pays off in the pool! Her training focuses on building swimming specific strength, combining explosive movements with core stabilization and classic strength exercises to ensure she has the strength to maintain proper technique and body position throughout her races.

Related: How to Swim Faster Butterfly

On her Instagram, she shows off her skills, crushing pull ups, push ups, deadlifts, hip thrusts and kettlebell swings, and working with suspension cables to challenge multiple muscle groups at once.

What aspect of butterfly do you find most challenging? Share in the comments, and let us know which swimmer we should analyze next!

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2 thoughts on “Analyzing Sarah Sjöström’s Butterfly Technique

  1. Just sort of stumbled on your site. Really good explanations on the whys and hows. I wish ordinary sports commentators would be more able to comment on these things. I mean I´m fully capable to see who’s in front etc, but I always wondered what made the difference between swimmers. Enjoy knowing a little bit more.

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