Keys To Consistency: Shoulder

In the first part of this three part series we took a look at the sweep leg. In part two we took a look at the slide foot. In this final discussion we’ll discuss your shoulders. More specifically the ball side shoulder and its importance in maintaining good consistency in your game.

We’ve all heard the story from the time we first started bowling. “Keep your shoulders square… let your arm swing like a pendulum”, and so forth. Well some of that advice, it turns out, is not too bad. Today though we have a slightly different take on such items.

First, let me address the shoulder point. Keeping your shoulders square is an outdated concept where bowling is concerned. In fact we want to “pre-set” our stance in the position we intend on ending in. As for our ball side shoulder, that means it should be lower than our other shoulder. We want to be sure our swing replaces our ball-side leg during our approach. We actually walk around our swing in the modern game allowing our arm swing to remain on a consistent plane throughout our approach. By keeping the ball-side shoulder lower, we actually keep our swing under our head and close to the inside of our swing (near our non-ball side leg at releases) therefore maximizing our leverage potential. So, there’s point number one; our ball-side shoulder should be lower than our other shoulder.

One of the prettiest most effortless swings in the game today is arguably that of Michael Fagan. The “King of Swing” as he is often called could be a poster child for a lose and controlled swing. Yet, he generates a lot of leverage at his release point. And yes, his ball side shoulder is absolutely lower than his other shoulder throughout his swing.

So, with that observation out of the way what is the rest of the trick as far as consistency is concerned. Well, two other ideas remain which can help you travel further down this road.

First, the consistency in your release relies significantly on consistent timing between your swing and your footwork. Notice here I did not mandate any specific timing. Once again, in the old days we tried to make cookie cutter bowlers by forcing everyone to have what we call “neutral” timing. That simply means that your foot work and arm swing are at consistent points throughout your approach and your slide and release happen in unison. Studies from places like the USBC’s International Training and Research Center (ITRC) have revealed that neutral timing is not mandatory to success in bowling (what a relief). The key is to achieve consistent timing between your swing and footwork. Variations in your timing can and do have the ability to affect the direction of your swing.

The last bit of advice on this topic has to do with your ball-side shoulder. If you recall, I mentioned pre-setting your stance in the position we intend on ending in. Well, the ball-side shoulder should be maintained in back of or parallel to your ear in addition to being lower than your other shoulder. Over the years I’ve noticed a common problem. Bowlers tend to roll their ball-side shoulder forward. Your ball-side shoulder directs the angle of your swing. By rolling your shoulder forward you will likely pull the ball toward the center of your body. One trick I often use with my students is to imagine that your shoulder has a camera that needs to continuously look at the intended shot line. This small tip helps them remember to keep their shoulder in the appropriate position throughout the swing.

One final note, your ball-side shoulder can move from its proper position if you have an errant push away. Your body’s natural anatomy will cause your shoulder to roll forward and in if you over extend your push away. Remember, the push away should be just enough to get your swing started. If you feel like you are chasing after your ball during your push and throughout your swing then over extending your push away could be the cause.

Hopefully, you have found this three part series informative and have put these principles into practice in your game.


Fran Varin is a USBC Silver certified coach who coaches throughout Rhode Island. He is also a coach for the Rhode Island Flyers and Bryant University. He can be reached at

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