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Late Timing

Excerpt from Bowling Fundamentals - Second Edition By Michelle Mullen

Late timing is when the ball is delayed getting into the swing. For example, the ball is not yet down by your side on the second step. In this case, the body is too far ahead of the ball. The table below lists a few common causes to late timing in the start, as well as solutions. To address this issue, you need to consider when you start the ball, how you start it, and the shape of your start.

Causes Solutions
Starting to push the ball too late Push the ball with the key step, not after
Pushing the ball up and outward Hold the ball highter in the stance. Push out and down
Tightening the arm and delaying the downward swing of the ball

Relax the swing arm after the push-away and just let the ball drop. Do not overextend or lock your swing arm.

Taking a key step that is too small Lengthen the step

Starting The Ball Too Late

Pushing the ball out after you take your key step causes late timing simply because you are pushing the ball late. If you are a four-step bowler, push the ball with the first step, not after. If you are five-step bowler, push the ball on the second step. Be sure your elbows move forward, not just the ball. The ball swings from your shoulder. The only way to get the ball out far enough to swing from the shoulder is to push your elbows out. However, do not lock the elbow of your swing arm as you push out the ball; this would cause the ball to pause rather than naturally drop into the swing.

If you are still late when you try to move the ball and foot at the same time, over-exaggerate and try to push the ball before you get both the ball movement and the step to happen together. Many bowlers have to do this because they are still late when they try to move the ball and the foot at the same time. Sometimes you have to see it on video to believe it!

Pushing The Ball Upward

If you push the ball up too much, rather than out, you likely will be late on the second step. Try to push it out and slightly downward. Try holding the ball slightly higher in stance to help you create this downward motion. Overexaggerating and thinking downward will help you combat the tendency to push up. This will help you get the ball into the swing sooner by changing the direction of your push-away.

Delaying The Drop

Using your muscles to hold the ball out too long during the first step is another way the ball gets into the swing too late. Because you are used to the feeling of being late, you might tighten up and hesitate to drop the ball to your side on the next step because it feels too quick although it actually is on time. Once you push the ball out, just let it drop down on the second step.

Note: to maintain a fluid arc into the swing, do not overextend or lock your elbow. This will only keep the ball from dropping into the swing on time. Letting it just drop on the second step can be particularly challenging because your tendency is to be late. The fluid arc to get the ball into the swing properly should be completed in two steps: out on one, down on two. Again, your swing arm should be relaxed. Learning how to use the opposite hand to get your swing arm to relax is really important to your timing.

Taking A Short Key Step

When your key step is too short, you have too little time to push the ball out with that step. The shorter the step is, the less time you have to get the ball out; the longer the step is, the more time you have to get the ball out during the step. If your timing is late, you need more time to get the ball out; a longer step will help because it takes more time to complete. This will give you more time to get the ball into the swing.

Once you successfully accomplish the out on one motion, if the ball is already past your left on the second step, your swing is ahead and you are early. In this case, you either need to delay the drop or just let it drop (rather than pull the ball back). Keep in mind that this will feel really slow, almost as if you are holding the ball out for almost two steps!

If your ball is not yet to your slide on the second step and is still in front of you, you are late. Move the ball sooner in the push or use your nondominant hand to push the ball soonwer and let it drop freely. This will likely feel fast to you until you get used to the rhythm of the new timing.

Use these suggestions until you complete the drill properly. This may take many tries! When you can do it correctly at least three times in a row, you are starting to get the feel and can attempt to take a shot. A word of advice: When you take the shot, try to walk through the first two steps as through you are still in the drill and then simply finish your steps. Although this will feel very fragmented, this is the only way you will stay techinically correct and reinforce the correct timing and finish the approach. With a lot of repetition, you wil become smooth and in sync. Be patient.

Note your posture as you do this two-step drill. If your swing gets a bit early in the start, you will tend to lean more forward as the ball moces into the swing. This is not to say that there is no spinal tilt during the approach, but it tends to get excessive when the swing gets quick. Paying attention to posture has helped many bowlers get back to better basics when working on letting the ball swing for better timing.

Fixing timing is a function of starting the ball at the right time (with the key step) and creating better swing mechanics to maintain good timing.


Mullen, Michelle. Bowling Fundamentals- Second Edition. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2014.

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