The initial shape of the swing refers to the ball’s direction during the swing itself. Keep in mind that depending on your physical and mental approach, you can make small adjustments to the initial shape, perhaps even switch from one swing shape to the next between shots. Here are the three basic shapes and their main characteristics.
This is the more commonly used shape for several reasons. First, it’s used by players with slow initial steps since it delays the time between the swing’s arc and the drop-down phase. If you’re the type of player that prefers a methodical, if slow, start, then the up-push may well be your best choice.
Second, it creates extra momentum on the swing. With the ball at a higher point, it has higher potential energy without translating into an awkward position. Of course, you can start with the ball in a higher position but it may or may not be comfortable for you.
Third, it provides a better sense of free fall. With the ball given a slight upward push and your shoulders completely relaxed, the former swings smoothly into the backswing. Many bowling instructors at Stars & Strikes use the technique for these reasons.
This is the traditional shape and, in fact, it’s the first shape that beginners should learn and master before moving to the other shapes. Basically, the ball’s movement is a combination of out and down, a more natural shape that suits most beginners.
In the out movement, the upper arm extends away from the body while the shoulders are also engaged albeit briefly. In the down movement, the ball swings down as the arm extends forward and the biceps relax. These movements should create a smooth, arcing motion without push-and-pull movements and sudden changes in direction.
Tip: Imagine that you’re tracing a semicircle with the ball so that it has a curved path during the entirety of the swing.
The Dropaway Technique
Players with intermediate and advanced skills, especially those with styles featuring open shoulders at the backswing’s top and high backswings, prefer this technique. With it, the swing path is considerably longer and, thus, the ball should be moved into the backswing faster than in a traditional pendulum-type swing.
The elbow also has little to no outward movement so that the ball swings from it; the upper arm muscles should be relaxed to allow such movement. The ball can then almost immediately move into its drop-down phase.
Your choice in one of these three techniques will partly be influenced by your general approach to playing and your current state of mind. You may be a passive bowler today, for example, but more aggressive tomorrow and your choice will reflect such change.