Osku Palermaa

Bowling tips: How to bowl 2 handed style efficiently? (Game Drills)

The ultimate goal of an efficient physical game is to reduce movement from the setup through the approach while maintaining maximum energy transfer from the bowler to the bowling ball. Here are some critical pieces of the two-handed physical game.

The setup

To better understand the setup recommendations, it is best to envision the body position at the top of the swing. This will help explain why I encourage the setup I do. Specifically, the key component at the top of the swing is shoulder alignment (via elbow alignment).

With two-handers, the goal of the setup is to preset the body position to ensure the movement to the top of the swing is fluid and requires minimal change from the setup.

To achieve the proper setup position, scaffold from the floor up:

  1. Set the slide foot parallel to the intended target line.
  2. Set the ball-side foot back and at 30 degrees. This will open the hips.
  3. Allow the hips to open naturally. The ball-side foot should be perpendicular with the hips.
  4. Move the shoulders to match the hip angle.
  5. The ball-side shoulder and hip are behind and lower than the non–ball-side shoulder and hip.
  6. Set the ball close to the body. The fingers of the non–ball-side arm should be placed just above the fingers. In addition, place the non–ball-side elbow forward. Think about making the forearms parallel with the hips and shoulder angle.
  7. Set the head to the outside of the body. The weight will shift to the back of the ball-side foot. This enables the slide foot to more freely move in the five-step approach.

Maintaining the setup angles

Recall that the goal is to move to the top of the swing position. As you move into the approach, it is important to maintain the angles established in the setup, including when the ball start is engaged. Too many bowlers open in the setup and then close the angles as they move into the approach. This creates additional unnecessary movement.

Walk → ball → align

With a five-step approach, the first step is simply a walk while maintaining the setup angles. As the toe on the slide foot compresses, this is a trigger to begin the ball start. As the ball moves into the swing, move the non–ball-side elbow to align with the back elbow. This will help to align the shoulders early in the approach. As the elbow moves to alignment, keep the head outside of the hip.

Elbow alignment at the top of the swing

Lateral trunk flexion continues to increase from the setup through the ball moving into the upswing. At this point, forward trunk flexion becomes fundamental to an efficient physical game.

I strongly recommend a five-step delivery. This will help keep the ball-side shoulder behind the non ball-side shoulder for the entire approach, increasing fluidity. When and how the ball is moved into the swing start has a direct influence on forward spine tilt as well as foot speed. Ideally, the ball-side elbow should not move past the hip/stomach and the ball should move below the elbow as it is moved into the swing start to create a rounded movement.

This will help to create earlier forward spine tilt which moves the center of gravity forward, increasing foot speed and fluidity. It also contributes to accuracy. The ball should move in a downward rounded movement (hand under elbow) as soon as the first step is completed in a five-step delivery. From the review of Osku Palermaa’s forward spine tilt, due to this rounded start with the elbow remaining on the body, the forward spine tilt increases throughout the approach in this manner: (articulated as a five-step approach).

Step #2: 20 degrees

Step #3: 36 degrees

Step #4: 45 degrees

Release: 80 degrees

Lateral spine tilt is essential to becoming an elite two-handed player. As with many top one-handers, the head is outside the hip as the ball passes the leg into the upswing. From my experience, one simple thought helps players achieve a great lateral spine tilt position. Keep your head outside of your hip. You can see how early the head is outside the hip in the Osku Palermaa approach sequence images below.

Osku Palermaa approach sequence
Osku Palermaa approach sequence

As you move the ball into the swing, move the head outside the hip as you move the non ball-side elbow directly in front of the ball-side elbow. This will help rotate the torso and set the stage for shoulder abduction into the upswing.

At the top of the swing, the upper body angle should approach 45 degrees of forward spine tilt. Moreover, look for the placement of the elbows relative to one another, front-to-back. The goal is to achieve alignment of the shoulders, front-to-back. This establishes the opportunity to rotate the back shoulder under the front shoulder.

Rotate the ball side shoulder under the front shoulder

From the top of the swing, rotate the back shoulder down with the downswing. This will help maintain the head outside of the body. If the back shoulder doesn’t rotate down with the downswing, the non–ball-side shoulder will over-rotate and pull the head to the inside.

Long elbow extension

In the release to follow through phase, focus on extending the elbow past the knee. This will ensure maximum accuracy as the hand travels on the target line longer, while creating the largest distance the fingers will travel on the ball arc line (for rev generation).

Physical game drill sequencing

To aid a bowler in achieving these ideal body positions, I suggest implementing drills in a sequence from the foul line back to the setup. As I always state, body position is the most important cause and effect catalyst. By micromanaging efficient physical game movements, a two-handed bowler can improve their physical game significantly.

The following drills are designed to work from the foul line to the setup. These operate as a sequential unit to build holistic physical game moments in the approach.

Foul line drill

The two-handed foul line drill is designed to develop key body positions at release to follow through. It also promotes a relaxed swing with elbow bend. Moreover, this drill will aid in developing a long elbow extension.

Step #1: Walk to the foul line and place the ball on the ground, fingers out.

Step #2: Set the slide foot at an angle (think 1 o’clock for righthanders or 11 o’clock for lefthanders) to prevent unnecessary stress on the hip and knee.

Step #3: Rotate the upper body so the head faces the ball-side wall. Think about the elbow alignment process discussed earlier.

Step #4: Pick up the ball, align the elbows front-to-back, elbows bent.

Step #5: Swing the ball forward and then back, and then roll it. Think BEND (front elbow), BEND (back elbow), EXTEND (elbow moves forward past the knee).

Perpendicular foot drill

The perpendicular foot drill is one version of a two-handed one-step drill. One of the key characteristics of many two-handers is a perpendicular position of the foot as they push into the slide.

Step #1: Setup approximately one and a half steps from the foul line.

Step #2: Set the slide foot at an angle (again, think 1 o’clock for righthanders or 11 o’clock for lefthanders) to prevent unnecessary stress on the hip and knee. Place the ball-side foot approximately one foot back at around 80 degrees relative to the slide foot. Try to set the toe of the ball-side foot aligned with the slide foot heel.

Step #3: Turn the trunk so the head is facing the ball-side wall. Lower the ball below the knee.

Step #4: Align the elbows and keep the elbows bent.

Step #5: Swing forward and back. Slide forward as the downswing happens. Have the shoulder move down with the downswing. Release and extend.

Two-handed one-step drill

The objective is to establish a top-of-the-swing position, swing the ball, and then finish.

Step #1: Setup approximately one and a half steps from the foul line to accommodate a slide.

Step #2: The slide foot starts at the heel of the ball-side foot. Specifically, the toe of the slide foot is setup at the heel of the ball-side foot.

Step #3: Place the ball below the ball-side knee.

Step #4: Be sure the body position enables elbow alignment.

Step #5: Elbows shoulder be aligned and bent.

Step #6: Start the ball forward and swing. Maintain the elbow bend throughout the swing.

Step #7: Slide and allow the ball-side shoulder to rotate the back shoulder under the front shoulder.

If this drill is completed correctly, the head will remain outside of the body.

One cue is to think BEND, BEND, EXTEND. Specifically, think about maintaining elbow bend forward and back, and then extending the elbow long in the release to follow through.

Top of the swing drill

I added the top of the swing drill to the Lincoln Memorial University training program for two-handers this season. The goal was to help two-handers establish, feel, and maintain the body position at the top of the swing through the finish position. As with one-handers, two-handers can sometimes experience over-rotation of the non–ball-side.

Step #1: Setup the feet in the same way as the two-handed one-step drill, one and a half steps from the foul line.

Step #2: Rotate the body in the same manner as the two-handed one-step drill.

Step #3: Move the ball to the top of the swing and hold at the top of the two-handed backswing.

Step #4: The downswing and slide should happen simultaneously. Focus on rotating the back shoulder under the front shoulder.

Skip drill

The intent of the skip drill is to develop the feel of the rapid two-handed power step. I named it the skip drill due to the skip/gallop-like power step of many two-handers.

Initially, this drill is difficult to execute properly. The key is the trigger point start.

Step #1: The setup is three and a half steps from the foul line.

Step #2: Setup as described above for the two-handed one-step drill.

Step #3: Swing the ball forward, then back, and then forward again. When the ball reaches its maximum forward position, this is the trigger to start the drill. As the ball begins to move back into the swing, start the feet with the slide foot.

Step #4: The tempo will be quick into the slide. The skip step of many two-handers is very quick.


By implementing a two-handed drill sequence training process, a two-handed bowler can develop a holistic physical game consistent with efficient biomechanics. Focus on executing the drills with quality and intent. Greatness is in the details.

Credit: Joe Slowinski

3 thoughts on “Bowling tips: How to bowl 2 handed style efficiently? (Game Drills)”

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  2. Indeed a very good article. The use of two handed bowling is growing. This technique is a direct outgrowth of the thumbless technique.
    Many of the shortcomings of the thumbless release can be moderated by using both hands. The growth of the two-handed style and its impact on the game is irrefutable. In fact at the release we are all thumbless bowlers because at the release point, just before the ball comes off the fingers, the ball is already off the thumb.

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