The Initial Ball Motion

Okay, we are ready to begin our approach, but there are so many methods of how to begin the movement of the ball out toward our target. Bowling starts back at the beginning of the approach as the bowler initializes their ball and feet moving toward the release of the ball at a target.  Most of us recognize the need to begin moving the ball into an effective movement toward the pins, but wonder, as individuals, what is the best option of doing just that?  Let’s consider, how to best focus as we work through the myriad of styles when initializing the movement of both ball and body moving into a smooth, effective approach.

The initial ball movement is generally called the Push-Away.  A push-away is the movement of the ball as it moves out toward the target and away from the stance.  A Push-Away is one method to start the ball momentum.  How that movement is initialized affects the ball swing, and therefore the synchronization of the ball and bowler’s movement along their approach.  Think for a moment, that whenever you hear the term push-away, think more in terms of ball placement and tension during the initial ball motion.

A general guide toward determining how much tension is most appropriate:

  • If the initial ball and feet motion during the approach appears fluid, then the amount of tension is acceptable.
  • If this motion appears controlled, there is too much tension, and adjusting the initial ball motion, ball swing or steps may be appropriate.
  • If the position and ball swings freely, without pulling the ball in any portion of the ball swing, the initial ball motion may be considered as acceptable.

Bowlers also have vastly different methods of initializing that ball movement, and therefore, their ball swing cycle.  Think of that initial motion as synchronizing the swing of the ball and the feet during the approach.  

Some bowlers use a long and pronounced push-away, while others use widely varied types of motion to put the ball into the swing with little or no push-away. Some bowlers have a low backswing while others have an almost vertical backswing. How ball movement is initialized affects the time required to swing the ball, and how the ball and feet are synchronized to be released in an effective and consistent manner. 

Understanding multiple ball initial ball alternatives can be advantageous.  However, some bowlers are resistant to any other rationale and will not consider any alternatives in how to get the ball started, because of their concern alternatives other than theirs may negatively affect their performance.  The best advice is to keep an open mind.

Regardless of the push-away style, allow the initial motion of the push-away and the weight of the ball freely determine your swing momentum.  Gravity, at the top of the forward swing and backswing, determines natural, un-muscled ball swing.  This will enhance the possibility of a consistent, repeatable shot.

Regardless of the style of the push-away, the bowler is advised to keep arm muscle tensions out of the picture as the ball moves throughout the swing.  Keeping arm muscle at a minimum best ensures a free swing from the shoulder.

The initial ball movement, to a large degree, establishes the remaining approach sequence.  While other factors are involved such as body structure (height, weight, physical flexibility, etc.) the initial ball movement can impact the timing of the ball swing, the bowler speed, the body motions throughout the approach, and the resultant accuracy of the shot.Let’s identify some of the basic ways bowlers initialize their ball motion during their approach. 


Typical Push-Away Styles
Though the list is not all inclusive, let’s group them together in a family called the push-away.  Here are a few of the push-away variations you may encounter (click to open any item).
Long, Pronounced Push-Away
Long and Pronounced Push-Away: Pushing the ball out as far as possible until the arm is fully extended.

  • Pros – A fully-extended push-away creates additional power.
  • Cons – Overextending your arm until the arm is fully extended beyond its natural length pushes the ball too far in front of the ball-side foot, forcing the body balance forward, This over extension delays the swing and creates late timing. When the weight of the ball is placed too far in front of the body, the resulting reaction of the body will be to leverage against the weight of the ball rather than moving forward in the approach.  The key is shortening the push-away by supporting the ball with slide-side hand, and gently transferring the weight of the ball at the end of the push-away to the ball-side without tightening the forearm muscles.  At this point remove the assisting hand, and allow a smooth arc of the ball downward as the ball-side foot contacts the approach.
Push-Away, with the ball outside the shoulder:
Push-Away, with the ball outside the shoulder:

  • Pros – The ball will clear the ball-side leg during the downswing, creating a straight ball swing. The ball is placed in a downward arc as the ball-side foot motion is started.
  • Cons – Holding the ball outside the shoulder, as you begin your push-away causes unnatural stress on the body due to the weight of the ball, and tends to cause the bowler to pull toward the opposite side. The bowler may tire during the course of session, and may negatively affect the bowlers stamina and consistency.


Push-Away 4” to 6” further than the first step
Push-Away 4” to 6” further than the first step:  A short first step in your approach maintains good balance. In a four-step approach, the ball-side foot steps forward as your arm with the ball moves out in a rounded motion. At the end of the first step, the ball should be about 4 to 6 inches in front of the ball-side foot ready to fall into the back swing. In a five-step approach, your short first step is with your non-ball-side foot. Your second step with your ball-side foot then imitates the four-step approach.

  • Pros – Maintains good body/ball balance during the push-away and ball swing.
  • Cons – May increase the possibility of early timing. The bowler must maintain a synchronized motion of a smooth arcing motion of the ball simultaneously with the ball-side foot on the approach.  Carrying the ball without a downward motion while the ball-side foot can cause late timing.
Push-Away in a Smooth Out and Down Arc
Push-Away in a Smooth Out and Down Arc: Moving the ball outward toward the target until the weight of the ball force the bowler to initialize their foot movement.

  • Pros – Enhances the synchronization of the ball swing with the ball-side foot.
  • Cons – Moving the ball prior to moving the feet may be the cause of early timing. The bowler must pay close attention to synchronize the downward motion of the ball with the ball-side foot to ensure proper timing.
Push-Away into a Large Up and Down Arc
Push-Away into a Large Arc: Moving the ball upward and out until the last four steps are initialized

  • Pros – Pushing the ball into a large arcing movement as it increases ball speed.
  • Cons – Moving the ball prior to moving the feet may be the cause of late timing. The bowler must pay close attention to synchronize the downward motion of the ball with the ball-side foot to ensure proper timing.
Extended Ball Push-Away
Extended Ball Push-Away: Positioning the ball outward with the elbow tucked into the body, with little or no push-away.

  • Pros –
    • Stabilizes the starting position for consistency, and more precise timing with the ball-side foot movement.
  • Cons –
    • Holding out in front strains the arm, and causes muscling.
    • Ball speed is often less than with other alternatives.
    • Promotes a controlled arm-swing instead of a free-swing.
Hinged Push-Away
Hinged Push-Away: Holding the ball close to the body, with little or no push-away, sometimes with a slight up and down bounce during the initial foot movement.  This is often called a Hinge.  The ball is pushed forward only slightly, with the elbow over the ball-side foot, but the primary motion of the ball is determined by the motion of the arm and elbow in an arcing motion.  The weight of the ball primarily rests in the slide-side hand, and gently transferred to the ball-side hand as the ball begins its downward motion. 

  • Establish a comfortable stance position with your knees unlocked, and holding the ball about waist high. Move the ball-side foot back more than usual to have additional balance.
  • Tighten the grip, feeling some tension in your hand, and then relax your grip to a more relaxed and comfortable grip.
    • Pros – The Hinge reduces arm strain and tension. A relaxed swing starts in the stance by keeping your grip relaxed.  The Hinge enhances a relaxed grip and arm. Using too much muscle tends  to pull the ball swing off line with less consistency.
    • Cons – Ball speed may be less than with other alternatives.
The push-away is best aimed toward the lane target

As the ball moves into the push-away, the ball moving in a straight line toward your target on the lane will help prevent the swing from going off line.  The rest of the ball swing should remain in a relaxed, straight line toward your target.  Recall that the bowler’s body is swinging a weight (the ball) on one side of their body while moving toward the release point.  The bowler, intuitively, attempts to maintain balance during these actions by either bending at the waist or the knee.  

Bending forward at the waist at approximately 15°enhances the forward motion, however, excessive bending at the waist cause the ball to be pulled across the body or released early as the body attempts to maintain balance.  Bending at the knee enhances the probability of maintaining a straight, smooth swing, and is recommended.  The more pronounced the ball motion, the more apt the bowler will remain erect and tense.  Any initial ball movement that minimizes that tension tends to also enhance the smooth, relaxed ball swing and accuracy.