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Drills for developing your bowling swing

This is an excerpt from Bowling-2nd Edition by Douglas Wiedman.

The following drills follow a particular order. Each successive drill adds more complexity. If you lose your awareness of a smooth, rhythmic swing as you work through the series of drills, you are not progressing properly.

Some of the drills in this text are based on the training regimen created by Dick Ritger. In the 1970s Mr. Ritger, an outstanding professional bowler, was one of the first to develop a complete training system for the sport of bowling. Although the modern bowler is more likely to open the body, drop the shoulders, and so on than those of Ritger's time, the essential aspects of his training regimen are fundamental to bowler training. As one acclaimed instructor noted, "I don't know where I would be without one- and two-step practice drills."

Learn the feel of a pendulum swing by recognizing the rhythm of the swing and the muscle-free motion. Although a gentle, continuous press against the back of the ball during the downswing creates acceleration, use the technique with caution. Avoid using a muscled swing.

Before starting these drills, be aware of a few guidelines:

  • Get comfortable with a swing line next to your body.
  • Look at where you want the swing to go instead of swinging to where you are looking.
  • Because the ball is wider than the arm, positioning adjustments are essential to swing accuracy.
  • The swing weight (ball weight accelerated by gravity) creates considerable force. Because the swing weight is on one side of the body, a correct finish position counteracts the swing weight.
  • During the drills, do not try to throw harder. Try to be smoother. An increase in ball speed is a natural consequence of body momentum working with swing momentum.

Practice should closely reflect real game situations. Focus on a target for most of these drills. Identify the target at which you intend to roll the ball. Your first concern is not aiming, but rather relaxing and letting the swing take the ball down the lane.

Kneeling Swing Drill 1. Swing Isolation

This is an isolation drill. Once in the correct position for the kneeling drill, you will be able to concentrate on different parts of your game because it eliminates the extra body motion and footwork. This is one of the few times you can watch yourself swing and release the ball. For comfort, place padding under the knee.

Use only the swing to send the ball down the lane. The upper body tilts slightly forward. Avoid moving the shoulders side to side. Be steady. Do not sway back and forth with the swing.

Kneel in front of the foul line, with the throwing-side knee on the ground (figure 5.12). Center the foot opposite your throwing hand (what would be the slide foot) in front of the down knee. The toe of the slide foot is 2 to 3 inches (5-7.6 cm) from the foul line. Place nonthrowing hand on the knee of the front leg. Keep it there. Position the back knee behind the front foot to clear room for the swing line. For balance, bring the back foot (of kneeling leg) around. Grip the ball and raise the throwing shoulder, bringing the ball off the ground. Angle the body to an open position to help direct the swing toward the target. Slowly swing the ball back and forth, lengthening the swing each time. Feel a slight pulling motion on the way back and a completely relaxed swing on the way forward. Do not take more than three swings or you could lose your grip on the ball. Do not stop the swing. Say to yourself, "Back, relax. Back, relax. Back, release."

Swing isolation drill.

Success Check

Score Your Success

  • Swing is a smooth pendulum motion = 2 points
  • Swing line moves back and forth next to the hip = 2 points
  • Force of swing does not pull bowler off balance = 2 points
  • Non-throwing hand stays on knee = 1 point
  • Ball does not hit floor during the swing = 2 points
  • Ball is release out past the foul line in a smooth roll = 1 point
  • Your score _____

Kneeling Swing Drill 2. Blind Bowling

Perform the kneeling swing drill with your eyes closed. Concentrate on the feel of the swing.

Score Your Success

  • The ball feels heaviest at the bottom of the swing = 1 point
  • The body position does not move = 1 point
  • The ball comes off hand after lowest part of downswing = 2 points
  • The swing feels smooth and relaxed = 2 points
  • Your score ____

Kneeling Swing Drill 3. Partner Help

This drill teaches the feeling of a correct backswing. Some bowlers are so used to the ball swinging behind the back that a proper swing doesn't feel correct. This drill requires a practice partner.

Partner kneels directly behind bowler. From this position, partner can tell how accurate the swing is. Partner places hands behind bowler's swing shoulder. If swing gets off-line, partner stops swing by catching it with both hands (figure 5.13). If partner stops swing, allow partner to reposition the swing in line with the shoulder. (This helps bowler feel the difference between a good swing and a misaligned swing.) The partner lets go of the ball so that it will swing forward on a straight line.

Partner catches the ball if the swing gets off-line.

Success Check

Score Your Success

  • Practice five sets of three swings. Score 1 point for each swing that touches partner's hand without needing to be repositioned.
  • Your score ___

Kneeling Swing Drill 4. Swing Past Towel

While in the kneeling position, place a small towel next to the toe of the slide foot. The towel will be under the path the ball swings along. The end of the towel should extend 6 to 8 inches past where the slide-foot toe is placed. If the bowler is positioned very close to the foul line, the end of the towel will extend past the foul line by a couple of inches. With correct swing acceleration and release position, the ball will swing over the towel and land on the lane past the end of the towel.

If ball hits the towel, work on a longer swing or firmer hand position. Excessive shoulder drop may cause the ball to hit the lane early. If you have to, watch the ball swing through the release zone. The proper positioning and swing elements described for the basic kneeling drill should be emphasized.

Success Check

Score Your Success

  • Roll the ball eight times. Score 1 point each time ball clears the towel and half a point for each roll that goes toward identified target.
  • Your score ___

Swing Drill 1. Watching the Arm Swing

This is an opportunity to watch yourself swing the ball. Keep the swing straight. Imagine a line drawn from the shoulder to the target; the swing will follow through directly down that line. The inside edge of the elbow brushes the hip on the way by. Although this is a swing drill, it is also excellent for working on the release.

Score Your Success

  • Your score____

Swing Drill 2. Partner-Guided Swing-Line Practice

This drill can be done from a kneeling position, upright in the proper finish position, or as part of a one-step practice. The practice partner is positioned on bowler's throwing side and guides the bowler's swing.

Partner grasps bowler's arm without interfering with the release. Partner grips forearm at the wrist, with thumb positioned under throwing hand (figure 5.14). Bowler swings ball three times and releases ball on third forward swing. Bowler executes five throws, and then switches roles with partner.

Partner grips the forearm at the wrist to guide the swing.

Success Check

Score Your Success

Partner grades bowler's execution based on the following criteria:

  • Take five practice throws, earning a maximum of 5 points per throw.
  • Your score ___

Learn more about Bowling: Steps to Success, Second Edition.

More Excerpts From Bowling 2nd Edition