Butterfly Kick: Steps, Safety and Benefits

Whether in martial arts or swimming, keep reading this article and learn about the techniques if you want to gain proficiency in the butterfly kick.1

1. What Is a Butterfly Kick?

A butterfly kick is a kind of kicking technique used in martial arts and is a swimming technique used by swimmers.

This leg kick is called a butterfly kick because while performing it, all the body limbs are extended out to depict a butterfly when its wings are stretched out during flight.

2. Butterfly Kick in Martial Arts

Basically, the kick is made up of a body twist while the legs are swung in the air in a circular motion, keeping the torso horizontally straight. The kick is used to take down the opponent by inflicting a blow on their vulnerable side.

Butterfly Kick
Image by Taekwondo-am-Tegernsee from Pixabay Copyrights 2016

There are many variations of butterfly kicks performed with different movements depending on the martial arts school. Some are butterfly twist, HK Spin, corkscrew, and California Roll.

2.1. Steps to Perform the Butterfly Leg Kick in Martial Arts

Follow the steps indicated below one by one to learn to perform the basic butterfly kick:

  1. You must first stand facing the direction where you want your kick to land to begin the kick.
  2. Then start in a bow stance, which is the correct position to initiate the kick. Your hips should be in the right direction, and your legs should be opened a little wider than the width of your hips.
  3. After the bow stance, stretch your arms out. The arm that corresponds to your straight leg should be in front of you, and the arm that corresponds to your bent leg should be behind you.
  4. Now, pivot both of your feet and swing your arms in the air in a semi-circular motion.
  5. Bend your body forward, keeping your back straight so your chest is parallel to the floor.
  6. Pivot again to enact a full 180-degree turn. Keep your head and focus straight while you pivot. For example, imagine your looking in the eyes of an opponent.
  7. Lift and kick your free leg out behind you as you are standing with the other. Keep your toes pointed.
  8. After the point when your free leg is in the air, jump and kick the leg behind you with which you are standing, keeping your toes pointed.
  9. After the kick is executed successfully, land on the ground with the leg, that first went in the air, and then let the other leg fall simultaneously and rest on the ground. The landing leg must bend, and the other leg must straighten.


These are the steps that will help you in performing an effective butterfly kick with regular practice.

2.2. Things to Remember in Practicing Butterfly Kicks

Butterfly kick is simple yet complicated and requires daily practice to build accuracy and strength. The movement of the left leg should coordinate with the movement of the right leg and vice versa.

It is better to learn and perform it under the supervision of an expert when you are just beginning to learn. The expert will be able to guide and help you in bringing out an effective butterfly kick.

2.3. Safety Measures to Follow

Before you start practicing the kick, find a soft surface and practice on it. Warm up and do some stretching exercises at first. You should be careful beforehand because you can get hurt while executing the kick.

2.4. Benefits of the Butterfly Kick

The benefits of the butterfly kick are that it tones the glutes and thighs and improves the strength of the legs by making the muscles stronger2, more flexible, and tighter.

3. Butterfly Stroke in Swimming

The butterfly stroke is one of the most intricate strokes in swimming. It requires much strength, flexibility, stamina, and practice to swim in this style. The synchronization of the arms and the legs is very important.

Butterfly Kick
Photo by Maksym Tymchyk on Unsplash Copyrights 2021

The movement of a dolphin’s tail when swimming is taken as an inspiration to perform a butterfly stroke. If you notice the swimming action of the mammal, every stroke and body movement resembles that of a butterfly kick technique.

3.1. Steps to Perform the Butterfly Stroke in Swimming

Follow the steps indicated below one by one to learn to perform the butterfly stroke:

3.1.1. Arm Movement

  1. While you are in position and floating on your chest on the water surface, widen your arms as much as your shoulders’ width and extend them over your head like you are making the shape of a keyhole.
  2. In a semicircular motion, pull your hands, coordinate your right and left arm, and position the palms to face outwards towards your body.
  3. Now, push your palms backward past your hips and along your sides as you swim.
  4. Finally, the recovery phase. Here drag your thumbs on your thighs as you finish the stroke and sweep your arms out of the water, throwing them forward to begin the upcoming stroke.

Butterfly swimming kick. Improve your underwater and fly kick. Beginners and Intermediate

3.1.2. Dolphin Kick

Two kicks are involved while executing the dolphin kick – the small kick and the big kick. Your feet should be joined together all the time as you swim, and your knees should bend when you execute the kicks.

  1. Perform the small kick when you are making the keyhole shape with your arms. Your toes should be pointed, and your ankles should relax while you swim.
  2. Lastly, perform the big kick when your arms push out of the water during the recovery phase, keeping your feet pointed.

These are the steps that you must follow to perform a butterfly stroke.

3.2. Things to Remember in Practicing Butterfly Stroke

Besides the arms and legs’ movements and coordination, you should also know when to breathe. In simple words, your whole body should be in synchronization to perform the stroke. Your ankles should also be flexible as the flexibility of your ankles is very much needed for your feet to provide propulsion while you swim.

Once you have expertise in arm stroke, leg kick, body movement, and breathing technique, you will perform the correct butterfly stroke. Some butterfly stroke drills, like the one-arm-only drill, and other drills will help you develop the technique.

3.3. Safety Measures to Follow

Unlike in front crawl, your legs move together in butterfly strokes. Wrong versions of the stroke can cause pain in the muscles and joints, like in rotatory cuffs. So make sure you are performing the stroke in the right way. Do some workouts before getting into the water.

3.4. Benefits of the Butterfly Stroke

The benefits of the butterfly stroke are that it tones the arms, chest, and stomach and builds the back muscles. It increases body strength, flexibility, and pliableness and improves the posture of the body.

Butterfly Kick
Photo by Richard R. Schünemann on Unsplash Copyrights 2018

4. Ending Note on Doing Butterfly Kicks

These were some of the basics of the butterfly kick in both martial arts and swimming.

If you aim to learn one or both of them, you can watch videos on YouTube or read tutorials on related pages. Still, nothing is better than learning and performing them under the guidance of a teacher as they will be able to point out your mistakes and help you in perfecting the techniques.

5. Frequently Asked Questions

5.1. Do butterfly kicks burn fat?

Yes! They are excellent cardio workouts and the techniques used in butterfly kicks shed excess fat from the belly, hips, and thighs. It is also good for toning abs.

5.2. How do I strengthen my kicks?

To strengthen your kicks, make your legs strong. Running or jogging is recommended for this. Also, you can opt for exercises for the legs, for example, lunges and squats.

5.3. Is a butterfly kick a flip?

It is not known to be a flip, it is a kick. We generally see this kick in aerial aerobics and martial arts. It is about control and coordination. You have to get your body parallel to the ground as you kick in the air.

Hope the information you found on our site was helpful.

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  1. Yamakawa, Keisuke Kobayashi, Hideki Takagi, and Yasuo Sengoku. “Three-dimensional analysis of hip and knee joint movements during dolphin kicking and butterfly swimming.” XIII biomechanics and medicine in swimming. Tokyo: Impress R&D (2018): 187-92. ↩︎
  2. Aagaard, Per. “Making muscles” stronger”: exercise, nutrition, drugs.” Journal of Musculoskeletal and Neuronal Interactions 4.2 (2004): 165. ↩︎

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Pratyusha Biswas

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