During the summer of my junior year in high school, my school gave all of the students punch cards to a local bowling alley. With this card, we got free shoe rentals and two $2 games per day.
That was the first time I started bowling on a consistent basis, and it showed.
I had a group of five friends that would go bowling three or four times a week. After a few weeks of losing to my friends. I started researching bowling techniques and watching bowling videos on YouTube.
Before long, I crawled out of the last place into first! Since then I’ve become a much better bowler but definitely wouldn’t consider myself an expert.
I’ve learned a few things that will help alleviate some of the growing pains when you are just starting out. I’ll go over some common problems and simple fixes that will improve your game and have your friends asking you for tips.
Whether you are just starting out or if you have been bowling for a while but have never given much thought to improving your game, many beginners struggle with the same things; can’t throw the ball consistently, stepping over the foul line, lose too many balls in the gutters.
Luckily these problems aren’t too difficult to fix, it just takes some patience and dedication. I’m going to share some bowling techniques that I used to improve my game, and fix these “beginner problems”.
Many of the problems that beginners face stem from the same place: Balance.
If your balance is off, your ball will be off. Simple as that. Ever noticed when you watch someone really good bowl it’s a very smooth and natural movement? That’s what you’re going for.
There are several factors that affect your balance, and we’ll get into the details in a little bit. For now, I’ll just mention them and give a brief explanation. Many people don’t understand that bowling is a game about physics; not power.
I know it seems logical that the harder you can throw the ball, the better your odds of getting a strike, but that just isn’t the way it works.
When you try to muscle the ball, it throws off your balance.
I mean think about it, you’re trying to use one arm to throw a 10 lb. ball. While moving. Attempting to muscle the ball will always result in being off balance.
Where you hold the ball and how your arm swings will affect your balance. It seems natural when you start your approach to hold the ball directly in front of you, but holding the ball directly in front of you will naturally force your arm to swing back and out, instead of straight back.
When your arm swings back and out, it will travel diagonally, crossing in front of your body instead of traveling in a straight line right next to your body. This crossing motion with a 10 lb. ball will pull you the direction the ball is moving. Which is towards your neighbors’ lane instead of your own.
Another factor affecting balance is speed.
Like muscling the ball, beginning bowlers often think that the faster they approach the lane, the faster they can throw the ball. And bowling faster means more strikes right? Wrong. In reality, approaching the lane too fast often causes you to lose balance and throw more gutters.
If you watch a professional bowler, you will notice that everything is slow and deliberate. Don’t be in such a rush to get the ball down the lane. Going too fast will just cause you to have an inconsistent release. Slowing down and focusing on all of your movements will improve your performance and help you bowl more strikes.
Bowling techniques to get a strike:
Almost all problems that bowlers face impact their balance. The first thing to remember is that you are bowling. When you are bowling you use a bowling ball. A bowling ball can’t be treated like a normal ball, because chances are it weighs more than you did when you were born.
It’s not a normal ball!
Using it as a normal ball (trying to completely control it) will just keep you off balance. Bowling is a game of physics, so let gravity do the work for you. Remember Newton’s first law? An object in motion will remain in motion and in a straight line unless acted on by an external force.
If you haven’t guessed by now you are the external force. So remember that you need to stay balanced to bowl strikes, and the easiest way to stay balanced is to remember that a bowling ball can’t be controlled like a normal ball.
Working Against the Ball
When you are using a ball that is as heavy as a bowling ball, you can’t force it to do what you want, that’s called working against the ball. Instead, you work with the ball to get the results you want. To get strikes consistently you need to be able to accurately throw the ball.
Trying to muscle the ball will cause you to be inconsistent with your accuracy. Instead, use physics to your advantage. When you try and force the ball straight you interfere with its naturally straight path it is on. So working with the ball will create a better scenario.
Using your arm like a pendulum swing the ball backward and let the weight of the ball and your forward movement pull the ball forward, rather than using your muscles to push it forward.
Doing this allows gravity to do its thing. All you do is hold the ball and gently guide it where you want it to go. The motion will take some getting used to. You will still feel the need to “throw” the ball instead of letting gravity do the throwing.
Free Arm Swing
This is related to muscling the ball but a little bit more specific. As I said, you want to use your arm like a pendulum to swing the ball back and let gravity pull it forward. Doing this will create a straight line for the ball to travel in, but if your straight line isn’t pointing the right direction it won’t do you much good.
So, to get your straight line pointing in the right direction you need to work with the ball again. This time it starts before you even begin your approach. When you are lining up don’t hold the ball directly in front of you.
Doing this will result in the path the ball will travel in crossing in front of your body. Because when you hold the ball in front of you and swing your arm back you have to swing it around your body, then on its way forward it will use the same path it took going back.
Instead, hold the ball in front of the shoulder of your throwing hand. This way when you swing your arm back your body is already out of the way, allowing the ball’s path to remain straight. This simple tip will improve your consistency and accuracy noticeably.
Now that we have covered bowling techniques to get a strike, let’s talk a little about your lower body. It’s very common, especially in beginners to rush the approach and delivery. Rushing will only make it more difficult to be accurate and consistent, and the thing that will make you a good bowler is being accurate and consistent.
So SLOW DOWN! On your approach, there is no set speed that you need to move, just a speed that is comfortable and totally under control. The most common approach steps are either three or five, it just depends on what feels most comfortable to you.
There should be a smooth and gradual increase in speed as you move through your approach, but don’t get out of control. Going too fast will just throw you off balance, so only go as fast as you can handle. Not rushing the delivery is as simple as just releasing the ball smoothly down the lane.
Like we already talked about don’t push it forward, let gravity pull it forward. Then release it as smoothly as you can. You don’t want to release too early resulting in the ball slamming into the floor, or too late and throwing the ball up for it to come crashing down into the lane. It should be smooth like you are setting it down.
- It’s all about BALANCE.
- Work WITH the ball, not AGAINST it.
- Use GRAVITY and your arm swing to create a STRAIGHT path
- DON’T RUSH!
- And have a SMOOTH release.
Getting strikes consistently isn’t as daunting a task as it may seem when you first start. A little patience and dedication will have you bowling turkeys in no time. Just remember to keep these simple tips in mind and in a few weeks, you’ll be getting high fives all around.
Next Steps and Where to Purchase Equipment
When you’re ready to make the leap, you can read these articles to learn what bowling equipment we recommend for every different kind of player and choose what suits you better. We try to review the best bowling equipment in the market every few weeks to keep up-to-date with the current trends.