Bowling alleys are a great place to meet up with friends for a night out. But it can also be taken up as a serious sport if you known how to troubleshoot your game. It takes time to master the skills and science behind it so don’t be disheartened if you don’t get it the first time. Spending more time on practising different techniques will help you figure out what works best for you. Remember, just because you are not a professional bowler by career does not mean you can’t impress your friends and hit a score of more than 200!
Correct Timing + Great Swing = Perfect Release
Once people play a shot and they are not happy with it, they are quick to blame their inconsistent release. Maybe they didn’t hold the ball in the correct position. Maybe they bent their wrist too much. In fact, the perfect release is dependent on the build up before releasing the ball. This means coordinating your footwork with your arm extension and back swing so that the ball lands at the correct position at the precise moment. It does not matter whether you are right or left handed. The same principle is true whether you take a 4-step or 5-step approach.
The best timing is one where your body leads your swing slightly as you go into your final step. This means that your foot should have reached just behind the foul line and you are waiting there for just a millisecond for your arm to come down. This position gives you the stability to maintain the pendulum action of your back swing. Conversely, if your swing is ahead of your footwork, then you will feel like you are rushing to foul line and your release will feel weak.
If your timing is too early, you will often feel like you have dropped the ball. The ball will rotate in such a way that when it reaches the pins there is a flat sound. Your shoulders will droop to one side and this may make you miss your target. If your timing is late, you will be left waiting squarely at the foul line for too long and will feel the need to pull the ball through. This will cause excessive shoulder rotation and again send your ball down a different target path. Your body is unable to hold the end position long enough to wait for the ball to come down and may pull itself up which will dramatically affect your release position. Not only will you be at risk of hurting your shoulder, you will also be wasting energy.
Forward Swing and Back Swing
It is not only the back swing that is important to time correctly. Your forward swing is an equally important part of the motion. It is crucial that your arm stays close to your body as you push the ball forwards and outwards. At the top of the swing, your fingers should be at 6 o clock position. This is what professional bowlers refer to as staying “behind the ball”. To keep the strength maximised in your swing, it is important that your arm stays close to your body throughout the whole movement. You can try to experiment this yourself. One time keep your arm close and the second time keep your elbow away from your body like a chicken wing. You will notice how much more energy you need to put the ball back into the original line of target just before you release it.
Once you practice coordinating your forward arm momentum to your footwork, you should be able to decide the correct height and speed of your back swing. If your back swing is too low, then your body automatically knows that it has less time to reach the foul line before the ball comes down. This means you will be taking more hurried steps and may lose balance or your arm will be stopping the ball from coming down too fast. This causes stress on your wrist and may cause injury!
The final thing to mention to prevent inconsistent release is to make sure you use your fingers and thumb to grip the ball the same way each time. If you hold a bird too loosely, it will fly away. Too tightly, the bird will die. It is the same with bowling. It is often difficult to maintain the same grip pressure using the house balls provided by the bowling alley. More serious bowlers tend to buy their own equipment and have it made to measure so that the distance between their thumb and finger holes ensures a consistent grip each time. You may also want to invest in a rubber plug which comes in different sizes according to your fingers. These will help prevent the ball from slipping off your fingers and also ensure a snug fit. The pro-shop at your bowling alley should be able to help you drill the exact hole size and angle. These make a huge difference in your game.
Disclaimer: I am not a tenpin bowling coach. I became a tenpin bowling national athlete who played using a 14.2 pound ball after mastering the hook technique. I know the dedication, physical strength training and physics required to succeed in the sport and I have many tips to share. Bowling has been popularised as a great place to socialise and release stress with friends. Because of its relatively small pool of professional athletes, few people know that it is actually also a sport worth millions of dollars. The great thing about tenpin bowling is that there is no one way to roll a ball. There is no one way to hold the ball. There is no one way to walk down the lane. It’s all about what is best for you and your body type. In addition, there is no age limit to be great at it, unlike other sports. I hope this article series will showcase the science behind tenpin bowling so you can take your game to the next level.
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