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Butterfly and Back Problems


Hi there!

Please can you share your opinion of the age at which a child should start training in the Butterfly stroke.

We have heard of children suffering from back problems later in life due to the fact that their little bodies are not able to adjust to a strong stroke like Butterfly during their early development years.

Thank you!



Hi Stephen,

Butterfly stroke should be taught from a young age.

Initially children should be taught how to kick like a dolphin through the water.  This is a gentle motion that includes moving the hips forward and back and the bending and extension of the knee when kicking.  This can be taught as young as 4 years old however most swim schools will teach it from 6 years onwards.  Initially children should be taught to do four arm strokes of butterfly without breathing, with a focus on correct timing of the arms and legs. For each stroke, the child should do 2 butterfly kicks. With correct technique and timing, butterfly is a lot easier than it looks.

Fins are a great piece of equipment to use when learning butterfly as they provide children with the opportunity to move through the water and to begin doing arm strokes, without staying in the one spot.

In 40 years involved with the sport, I have never come across any children who have suffered back problems later in life because of doing butterfly in their early development years.

I do know a few swimmers who have had back problems from doing way too much butterfly as an elite athlete (10 years of at least 5km of butterfly a week) and every now and then I have had a swimmer with weak back muscles who have struggled with butterfly and many other drills involving the use of back muscles… but this occurs rarely.

Rest and massage are key methods used to improve back problems.


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