Have you ever wondered why Jason Belmonte drifts left when starting his approach? This seems to be the world’s best bowler’s signature movement. I asked myself if I should try and copy this technique for my usage. And I did. This video will explain the benefit of the drifting approach for two-handed bowlers, and how to control it.
After the video, you might have a new advanced technique for your bowling toolbox. Let’s move on.
The first question is what is drifting?
The second question is if drifting is better than no drifting.
And the last thing to discover is how to control the drift.
First of all, we need to clarify that the drift happens right on the first step of the approach. It can be a left drift for the righties and a right drift for the lefties.
Some two-handed bowlers don’t drift left on the first step. Instead, they keep the first step straight and perpendicular to the foul line. I also start the approach without the left drift in the beginning. Instead, I step forward in a perpendicular line to the foul line.
So I began to try the left drift on the first step to see if my approach and release are better or not. People often say, if you don’t try, you’ll never know, right?
This is the approach without and without the first drift step.
I’m quite sure that you can hardly tell the difference in general. But let me tell you later in this video.
I also see that I have to adjust the aiming system because I stop at the foul line at a different point than without the drift.
However, the biggest and critical difference is around the hip area.
Without the first drift step, my lateral spine tilt is exaggerated due to the tight hip space for leg adduction. Most of the time, the exaggerated lateral spine tilt will increase your ball launch angle and decrease your overall accuracy.
This explains why you plan to have a specific ball launch angle, but in reality, the ball travels in a different way and often ends up in a larger angle, making your ball meet the gutter or miss the pocket to the 3-pin or 2-pin with lefties. This scenario is really annoying. The first drift will fix and moderate this flaw. Do you know why?
Let’s dive into some hip and leg skeletal muscle anatomy to have a scientific and logical view.
This is our hip or ilium skeletal structure. Your leg is attached to the ilium through a dynamic joint, helping it to rotate in 4 different ways: Backward, forward, abduction, and adduction.
Let’s zoom in on the motion of the right leg at the second step of the 5-step approach in bowling. We’ll see the cause and effect on the lateral spine tilt of the 2 scenarios: without and with the drift step.
Without the 1st drift step, the second step of the right leg in the 5-step approach is the adduction of the femoris. If we make a cross-step, you can see that the ilium and spine begin to considerably tilt.
You need to understand that the ilium and sacrum are connected through a joint, promoting a forward and backward movement, and little lateral movement. So the cross-over adduction will make the ilium tilt, hence the sacrum and spine.
When we continue with the later steps, the bowlers’ spine tilt naturally continues to increase, making the lateral spine tilt gradually larger than expected. The lateral spine tilt helps bowlers create swing slots and contribute to defining the ball launch angle. The bigger the spine tilt angle, the larger the launch angle.
So how about making the first drift step?
When making the first drift step, you open a space between the 2 legs and help minimize the exaggerated ilium and spine tilt. Because the adduction of the right leg is blended with the forward horizontal rotation of the hip joint, your ilium and spine tilt are therefore minimized.
Finally, you can take back control of your spine tilt and ball launch angle. Your accuracy will be considerably improvised for sure.
One more disadvantage of the non-drift first step is the upper body tends to be twisted after the second step. The twisted upper body will promote a throwing shoulder when releasing the ball. This is the biggest enemy of bowlers.
When your upper body is relaxed, your bowling shoulder can easily rotate below the non-bowling one. This is exactly what we want during the release.
So now you see the benefit of the drift step. Some bowlers make the first drift step just because they feel comfortable. But I’m quite confident that the reason behind it is what we have discussed above. So when you truly understand the mechanism, you will want to take advantage of it.
So now you see what the drift step is and its benefits. The last question is how to control the drift or how much should you drift?
Because you start the approach with the drift step, you need to clarify how many boards you drift from the 1st step and where you stop at the foul line.
In my experience, you should take some record of the approach by zooming in on your footwork.
The 1st drift step usually covers a fixed number of boards based on your comfort. You can’t make a large drift step indeed covering like 20 boards. It’s impossible and unreasonable for the approach, for sure.
You can dynamically move your stand around the approach area and use a fixed drift step. That would be a better choice, to my opinion.
Once you know how many boards you often drift on the 1st step and which board you often stop at the foul line, relating to where you originally stand, you will know how to adjust your aiming system. For example, this is my adjusted aiming system:
I want to roll the ball passing the 20th board at the dot line with a specific launch angle. I will stand on board 16. Why? Because after some testing with the drift step, I recognize that my first drift step often crosses around 7 boards left, then I will slide back to around where my right heel touches the ground on the second step. From where I stop at the foul line, I can roll the ball perfectly passing the 20th board with my desired launch angle. So I’ve completed my adjusted aiming system.
But what If I want to adjust the launch angle? No problem, this is my trick.
From 1 specific standpoint, I can create 2 different levels of launch angle, which is quite enough for my usage.
The launch angle is dictated by where my right heel touches the ground on the second step.
If my right heel touches the same board as the left toe, that is when I want to have a large launch angle or the largest launch angle.
The launch angle will decrease if I right heel touches the same board as the left heel. I call this a medium angle.
That’s it. You can try my aiming system as a reference and create your own too.
There’s another small tip here. You should keep your first drift step and second step short to have a stable movement and easily execute the last steps.
That’s the end of the video. In conclusion, to drift or not to drift is just a matter of choice, as long as you feel happy bowling. It’s not a must or the best pattern that everyone should follow.
Now, it’s time you hit the lanes and test my tips. If it helps improve your game, don’t forget to subscribe and give me some comments; also, like or share this video with your friends if they want to improve.
See you in the next post on how to practice the belmo style. Until then, enjoy bowling!