Walter Ray William Jr Bowling

Bowling tips: How to eliminate “chicken wing” habit once and for all?

“Chicken wing” is known as the most common bad habit for most bowlers. You must have encountered this fault at least once since you started bowling. “Chicken wing” eliminates the efficiency of the ball motion and carry, preventing you from bowling consistency. In order to break this bad habit, you first need to know what “rolling the ball efficiently” means. Here we go!

3 important elements of an efficient roll

a. Stay more behind the ball
b. Create longer swing
c. Eliminate early timing/swing

1. Stay more behind the ball

A major skill most bowlers try to achieve is the ability to get their hand behind the ball prior to and during the release. Many times bowlers focus solely on the position of the hand and not the position of the body. If the body is not in a proper position during the release, there is little chance of ever getting the hand behind the ball at all. 

This is an example of bowler not getting the hand behind the ball enough through release.

How to fix it?

#1: Wrong shoulder position

Notice in Photo 1 that shoulders are level. Having the shoulders level at the foul line turns the hand inward (see red arrow). Now look at the yellow line in Photo 2. The bowling shoulder is lower than the non-bowling shoulder, but the hand is still rotated to the inside.

Wrong shoulders postion bowling skill

In Photo 3, see the red line and arrow. Starting at the hip, the line shows where the bowling shoulder should be. Clearly, this shoulder is way out in front of the hip, and the hand is rotated inward. If the bowling shoulder is lower than the non-bowling shoulder and in front of the hip, this causes the hand to rotate inward early. Now let’s take a look at the position of the body that allows you to better get the hand more behind the ball.


The red line in Photo 4 shows the alignment of the hip through the right shoulder. This is not an open position. Having your bowling shoulder over the hip makes you square to your body. This position allows your hand to face up the lane and behind the ball. It’s actually the beginning of the release.

Correct Shoulder Position bowling skill

At this point the weight of the ball should be transferring from the base of the thumb to the fingers, as the swing travels under the body toward the foul line. It is also the momentum of the swing that carries the ball over the foul line. If the bowling shoulder stays over the hip, your are more likely to maintain your leverage throughout the release and your balance after the release.

See in Photo 5 that the bowling hand has been moved slightly forward and in front of the hip, but not the bowling shoulder. The palm of the hand is still facing up the lane.

In Photo 6, notice the right shoulder is down and laid back over the right hip. Notice also the red arrow, which shows the palm facing the lane and the path of the swing traveling directly under the head. This allows a player to keep his or her eyes on their target easier and to see the path of the ball on the lane earlier.

How to execute this at the foul line?

Step 1: Push your butt back just enough to put the weight of your body on the balls of your feet (Photo 7) If done correctly, your chin should be just over your toes, or slightly in front of your feet.

Hold your butt back bowling skill

Step 2: Slightly bend your knees (approximately 1 to 2 inches).

Step 3: Spin both feet in the direction of the foul line, making sure to transfer most of the weight of your body onto the lead leg, or slide foot.

Spin both feet in the direction of the foul line

Step 4: Allow your right arm and hand to drop down along with the right shoulder.

You should be able to look down at the slide foot and notice your chin is either right on top of your toes or slightly in front of it. You should also be able to use just the toes of your back foot to hold your balance, barely having them touch the floor.

The bowling arm should be lined up right over the hip of the back leg. The non-bowling arm should be in line with the shoulders, and the thumb of the hand turned down. Once you’ve got it, swing your bowling arm back and forth and you will feel the “shoulder joint” rotate forward. You will notice that as you swing your bowling arm back and forth, your palm stays facing up the lane as it travels from the back hip to the front hip, and your thumb stays to the outside of the elbow.

Using index finger 

Put your hand in your bowling ball and let it hang down by your side. If you are holding the ball with the middle and ring finger along with the thumb, you will notice that the wrist is in a broken position with the wrist bent back.

bowling wrist bent back back view

bowling wrist bent back side view

The way you get the wrist to straighten is to press the index finger into and under the ball so that it can support the weight of the ball as the wrist straightens.

bowling wrist cup back view

bowling wrist cup side view

From the setup all the way through the release, keep the index finger pressed firmly against the ball. This will help your hand stay behind the ball. This actually adds a tremendous amount of power to the release, when done properly.Roll the bowling ball

Remember this takes time to practise.  If your body is not in the right position, there’s little to no chance your hand is going to stay behind the ball long enough, or stop rotating inward too early.

2. Create longer swing 

A major problem that a lot of bowlers have is an inability to properly create a long swing that will help them get the ball farther down the lane and create a later reaction. I’d like to talk about how to create that nice long swing so you can get more length and still not lose the leverage of that swing.

To over-extend or not

To help you get a full understanding of how to unlock the swing motion without restriction, try this exercise. Stand with your feet together and keep your back fully upright. Extend your bowling arm out fully, as shown in the photo “Arm Extended.”

Once you have established this position, swing your arm back; you will find the length of the swing will be inhibited, as shown in the photo “Arm Extended Back.” I bring this to your attention because the majority of bowlers will try to set their arms farther away from them to create a longer swing, when in fact this usually “restricts” the motion of the swing.

arm extented

In order to get a better understanding of how the swing works, let’s try another exercise. Again, keep your feet together and keep your back fully upright, but instead of fully extending the bowling arm away from you, extend your arm with a slight flex in the elbow and at a slight downward angle, as shown in the photo “Arm Not Extended.

arm not extened back

Once you have established this position, swing the bowling arm back. Notice that your arm can now travel back father and with less restriction (See “Arm Not Extended Back”). You should be able to feel the difference in the range of motion of your swing and create a longer armswing.

Pro bowlers who have long, high swings include Pete Weber, Wes Mallot, Danny Wiseman, and Parker Bohn. None of them over-extend their pushaway, yet all are able to generate a high ball speed.

Upper body

Let’s move on to creating a long, high swing using the upper body. Using degrees of upper body lean to create a long, high swing is an individual thing. Some bowlers use a lot of upper body lean and some don’t. Find an upper body lean position that works best for you. Start by using the push away exercise described above…partially extending the arm away from you.

Once you have established this position, lean slightly more forward, as shown in “Upper Body Slight Lean.” You should be able to feel the length of the swing increase slightly.

upper body slightly lean

Lean slightly more forward as shown in “Upper Body Slightly More Lean” to increase the length of the swing even more.

upper body slightly more lean

Finally, extend the body even further forward, as in “Upper Body Weber” and you’ll have a swing that travels much higher, much like the style of Pete Weber.

upper body weber

Once you have tried all of these positions, you can choose the one that feels right for you.

Distance of the step

Now for the distance of the step before the slide. This distance has long been thought of as a long step, but having a long step before the slide can have an adverse affect on a long, high swing. Look at the photo “Long Step.”

long step

This brings your back angle more upright and the swing down. Now, try taking a long step. The swing should feel very restricted and the body is forced more upright. You will also feel a loss of balance. In “Medium Step” I have taken a medium-sized step before the slide. This makes the swing longer and limits the body from being as upright.

medium step

Finally, we come to a short step before the slide. You will notice this step allows the highest and longest swing length. There are plenty of elite amateurs and professionals alike that take a short step before the slide.

short step

In order to find which step size is best for you, practice the medium size step and the shorter step repeatedly, without a bowling ball. Once you have gotten comfortable and are sure of what size step you want to use, go through the entire routine I’ve explained in this article: extending your arm, the upper body lean, and finally the step size that you want to incorporate into your game.


Most bowlers that want to increase their swing length and ball speed tend to walk too slowly through the approach. It doesn’t mean you have to run through the approach, but in order to increase ball speed, you should pick up the speed of the steps a bit, quicker than your normal pace. If you watch the best players, like Norm Duke, you will notice that he takes the first couple of steps, based off of a five-step approach…at a comfortable pace. Then after those first two steps, he allows the feet to follow the momentum of the swing, thus creating ball speed.

At some point later, you’ll want to practice how to set the ball into the swing at different speeds. The faster you set the ball into the swing, the faster the ball speed. Alternately, the slower you set the ball into the swing, the slower the ball speed. Having only one speed of setting the ball into the swing is limiting. You want to be able to alter your ball speed on command, without losing control.

3. How to prevent early timing/swing?

What is an early swing?

An early swing is one where the release point is positioned beyond the most advantageous leverage area. The maximum leverage area is one that is initiated by clearing the thumb two – three inches prior to the shoulder/ankle point, then driving the ball into the lane in an outward trajectory as illustrated below.

The major error in an early swing occurs when the release point has passed the shoulder/ankle position, thus forfeiting a great portion of maximum leverage in the delivery.  For example, if you place a double-ball bag directly under the shoulder/ankle position, you will be able to maneuver that weight with ease. You will also experience the same feeling when the ball is about two or three inches BEHIND the shoulder/ankle area.

When your shoulder lines up over your sliding ankle, you’ve reached the point of maximum leverage for an ideal release. The weight of the ball rests on the fingers as the ball is projected out onto the lanes.

However, if you place the ball/bag position beyond the shoulder/ankle position, the weight will place you in an awkward position, pull your body forward, and inhibit your ability to apply a stronger release. Furthermore, the release beyond the maximum leverage area will result in launching the ball in an upward manner, generally referred to as hitting up on the ball.

Hitting up on the release can be detrimental in several ways. First, when the ball is released in an upward manner, chances are the ball will be in a spinning motion prior to making contact with the lanes. This will undoubtedly result in over-reaction of the ball… an early hook on drier lanes or a weaker delivery on slicker lanes.

What causes early timing?

#1: First, any movement of the ball prior to the start of the approach will cause the swing to arrive at the release point prior to the end of the slide. This is an example:

To correct this error, begin the push away and the first step (four-step delivery) at the same time. In a five-step approach, begin the first step, pause slightly, then push away and start the second step simultaneously. Let’s see a tip from Norm Duke.

#2: Second, pushing the ball away in a downward manner will shorten the length of the swing and place the ball ahead of the slide.

To correct this fault, try to lengthen the swing by pushing the ball UP and AWAY. This will add length to the swing and place the release point in a greater leverage area. 

#3: Third, slow feet in the approach will result in the ball going past the slide, creating an early swing. To correct this, speed up the feet in the approach in order to be in a position to wait for the ball. This will enable you to release it with full leverage. You can also correct an early swing by starting the first step (in a four step delivery) slightly ahead of the push away.

That’s it! So now when you know how to roll the ball the right way, you never experience the “chicken wing” habit anymore!


Credit: Bill Hall & John Jowdy

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