Bowling is a sport that requires a dedicated venue, more specifically the indoors, to practice and play. Compared to other ball games, it is a non-contact type wherein you engage in competition with other players by performing at your best. Since you can’t just go bowling anywhere, every practice session must count in order to push yourself to become better.
If you happen to have a bowling alley or have access to the nearest bowling center anytime, repetition can make you better. But for those who don’t have that luxury, you need to approach the game more strategically. Through analyzing your gameplan, correcting major flaws, utilizing the best techniques, and undergoing exercises, you can definitely improve if you plan to be serious.
How to Improve Gameplay
Let’s assume you have a firm grasp of the rules and mechanics of bowling. You want to improve, right? Practice harder may seem an easy route at first but it will pay off in the long-term if you practice wisely. Here are tips you can follow to improve your gameplay:
Use the Appropriate Tools
There are aiding straps that you can use to help you maintain your form. In bowling, form is everything. If you have a loose grip or wiggly wrist, invest in wrist wraps. Also, try to start practicing with a bowling ball that is neither heavy nor light, just the right weight.
Practice Initial Stride
When bowling a ball, you need to take an initial stride to build up power to roll the ball forcefully. Professional bowlers usually use the 5-step approach while most beginners prefer a 4-step approach. As you practice your initial stride, keep these in mind: shoulders squared upfront, head faced forward, bowling arm swung smoothly, and steps paced evenly.
Understand Your Roll
If you are throwing the bowling ball, then you are not doing it right. The correct way is to roll it. As you are taking your stride, you take a lunge position when you are about to release the ball in your hands. Imagine yourself rolling a tissue paper roll on the floor. That movement is the gist of how to release the bowling ball.
Recalibration on your aim is important. At first, it is normal to frequently bowl out of bounds. You must remember how you did it and how your form was upon release. When you realize your mistake, make some adjustments either in your power, direction, and aim. In other words, practice with the goal of making your body movements coordinated with your perception.
Make it a Routine
Now that you have your stride and rolling patterns and the body is slowly coordinating with your perception, the next best thing you can do is being consistent by making it a routine.
The great thing about this is that you can practice your form at home or at a gym in front of a vanity mirror. Repeat it dozens of times until it becomes involuntary. Then, try it in the bowling alley and make assessments.
As a beginner, it’s impractical to aim at hitting strikes consecutively. You can start from small objectives like hitting at least half of the pins. Then, slowly be consistent with that and then aim for securing a spare. And when you can frequently hit all pins at each turn, aim now for the strike zone.
Gain More Exposure
As mentioned, bowling is a sport that needs a dedicated place to practice and play. The more frequent you visit a bowling alley, the more chances you have to progress. Repetition can build muscle memory, which can help you achieve perfect form. Additionally, compete in tournaments so that your confidence level increases.
How to Hit Strikes Constantly
In bowling, in order to compete with others, you must compete with yourself. Seems philosophical, right? In this sport, you have no physical contact with the opponents and therefore, you don’t have an opportunity to win by overpowering them.
You have to play at your best in each turn and the only way to do that is to secure strikes as frequently as possible. It is possible that in a game, there is no winner if all of the participants score only using strikes. It is a game of endurance, and the one who makes the most mistakes will be the loser.
So, it is only inevitable that during your quest for improvement, you will be aiming to get strikes as frequently as possible. But how can you get strikes always? Here are tips that can help you:
Being flexible can actually help you achieve athletic feats in sports. This is because the power generated is delivered according to its intended purpose. The ‘chain reaction’ from the initial stride towards the release is essential and if your body becomes an obstacle, then it will affect your aim.
Aim for the Pocket
The ‘pocket’ is that sweet spot wherein the momentum of the ball is driven to the entirety of the pins, resulting to a strike. For right-hand players, the pocket is between the front-most pin (pin 1) and its right-side pin (pin 3). For left-handed players, the pocket is just the opposite side, between the front-most pin (pin 1) and its left-side pin (pin 2).
Choose a Ball with the Appropriate Weight
Lighter balls are obviously easier to handle. So, you might be wondering: why is there an 18-pound ball? Is it for a display of machismo? In a way, the answer is yes, since heavier balls do tend to overshoot if applied with excessive power. There are people with strong builds who can generate more power than regular people.
Most of them too are men, so there’s that. But you don’t need to choose a heavier ball. The most important thing is to match your power-generating ability to the weight of the ball in order to maximize the momentum and translate to a score.
Focus on the Arrows
One rookie mistake is focusing your aim towards the pins. Since the lane is unevenly oiled, the physics involved may be a bit complicated. To simplify things, focus your aim on the arrows located in the middle of the lane.
In order to hit the pocket, right-handers have to roll the ball on the second arrow counting at the right side. For lefties, roll the ball on the second arrow counting at the left side.
Align Your Approach
There are 3 parallel rows of dots before the foul line: one is right behind the foul line and the other 2 are a few more spaces away. These dots serve as a reference for your initial stride. Choose a dot where your last step will end right before releasing the ball.
For right-handed users with a slight hook in their swing, place the left foot to the middle dot’s right. For left-handed users, place the right foot to the middle dot’s left. And if you happen to aim for the pocket successfully, then continue to approach that certain dot. If not, try changing your initial stride.
Keep Your Posture and Power
The easiest way to approach is to walk in a straight line. Make yourself comfortable with your initial stride so that you can continuously deliver power. For your non-bowling arm, keep it closer to your body and then swing it back straight. Upon the release of the ball, the hand should be on shoulder level.
The swinging of your non-bowling arm must be coordinated with your power step, which is the step before you lunge to release the ball. The power step is the peak gather of momentum before the bowling position and the swing acts as a counterbalance. For righties, the power step is on the right foot. For lefties, it is the opposite.
Curve and Follow Through
As you build your pace and fix your aim, to increase the chances of hitting a strike, curve your release and follow through. For a general guide, the righties must rotate the thumb in 10:00 position and the lefties must rotate theirs in 2:00 position during release. The ball will gain a spin as it rolls down but the follow-through of your bowling arm maximizes that rotation.
Exercise For Bowlers
Bowling might be a non-contact sport, but it is still a physical sport. Strategies and skills can take you afar but it will be your physical condition that enables you to perform or even lift a ball. Exercises not only improve your power delivery, body coordination, and flexibility but also help prevent injuries.
Here are some of the exercises you can do while improving your gameplay:
- Overhead stretches and cross stretches – affects shoulders and arms
- Lunges – affects abdominals, legs, and knees
- Wrist flexion – affects forearm, wrists, and fingers
- Push-ups – strengthens arms, elbows, and shoulders
- Sit-ups – strengthens abdominals and core muscles
- Squats – strengthens legs and knees
- Cardiovascular activities – improves stamina and breathing
- Farmer’s walk – strengthens wrists and improves flexibility
- Softball catch – strengthen wrists and forearms
- Squeeze – strengthens fingers
- Thumb opposition – strengthens fingers without equipment
If you are aiming to be a serious bowler, improvements are to be expected. As you develop your gameplay more and start aiming for strikes, it is important to keep your body in shape. Always keep in mind that the best way to remain effective and avoid injuries is exercise.