By Stephen Padilla on Oct 9, 2019 9:18:18 AM
When it comes to the physical game, one area bowlers often want to jump right into is the release. It makes sense to want to get there right away, but there's a reason we've gone through everything else (stance, start, posture, timing, footwork, arm swing) first. You need all those working together through your approach to get the most out of your release.
All that said, the release is important to the game-obviously-because no matter what you've done to get to that point, you still have to let go of the ball and consistency here is needed. I want to go through a few of the things you can do at the release to help alter and control your ball motion.
There are three primary positions you'll see bowlers' hands in as they release the ball. The first one, which is the one that will help generate the most revolutions on the ball, is the strong, or cupped, position. This is when your wrist is cupped and your hand is underneath he ball.
Next, is a firm hand position, when your wrist is locked so that the back of your hand is in line with your forearm. Your hand should be behind the ball at the release point. This is the most common hand position among players and generally leads to a medium rev rate. Coaches work to get beginning bowlers into this hand position as this is when they start to control hook and see what their capable of.
Finally, there's the relaxed hand position, which we see with most beginners or with people who are using a bowling ball that weighs too much. The relaxed wrist will minimize revolutions on the bowling ball.
Many players aren't familiar with different hand positions, so I recommend trying them all. Use a slow swing and get a feel for how each can work within your game.
Axis Rotation and Axis Tilt
The axis rotation of your bowling ball is the horizontal movement of your positive axis point (represented in our video by the wooden dowel) at the bottom of the swing and is determined by where your hand is on the ball at release. If your hand stays behind the ball, your axis rotation is pretty close to zero, or whatever your natural angle may be. If you get your hand all the way to the side of the ball, you have more axis rotation and potentially more angle with ball motion.
Increasing axis rotation tends to increase the skid phase of ball motion and gives you more length before changing direction down lane. Lower axis rotation lets the ball read the lane as soon as possible. This leads to a smoother path with a less angular backend.
Axis tilt is a little more advanced and there are few players with the skill to consistently use axis tilt to their advantage. With axis tilt, think of the positive axis point again, still represented by our dowel, but think of its vertical position. Players control axis tilt with the angle of their hands at the bottom of the swing.
A higher axis tilt increases the skid phase and gives us continuous backend motion rather than an angular motion.
Finally, let's talk about loft. We're not talking the huge over-the-gutter-cap type of loft we sometimes see late in qualifying blocks, but rather loft as a way to change where your ball motion sees the lane.
The farther onto the lane you loft the ball, the less of the lane your ball interacts with, so even just a little bit of loft can change your ball motion significantly.
A lot of elite players will control loft using grip pressure by lifting with their fingers more or less at the bottom of the swing, but I recommend, especially when you're just getting started with loft, to focus on letting go of the ball from a different height.
As you make your approach, figure out how to get the ball to a different height at your finish position. Whether you preset your height in your stance or work your way there as you approach, changing the height of the ball at release allows you to keep the same release-without varying grip pressures-and can help maintain consistency with launch angles.
With loft, just a couple inches of height can make a big difference as to the ball's reaction on the lane, so it's a good idea to practice various degrees of loft. Try setting the ball down within three feet, then within five feet, then to the dots and learn how the reactions differ.
A lot goes into the release and we've touched on some of the basics and a few advanced adjustments. As usual, the best advice is to practice different options, see how they feel, read how your ball reacts and determine what works best for you.