Bowling is very popular in the US—it’s an immensely social sport, as many groups of bowling pals will tell you. But as with any sport, it’s more fun when you get better at it. We went to top bowling coach Michelle Mullen, and she gave us three ways that almost every bowler can improve quickly…
Let your opposite hand support the ball’s weight in your stance and approach. The secret to a consistently successful arm swing is keeping your arm loose and relaxed—but you can’t do that when your arm muscles have to tighten up to support the weight of the ball. Instead, use your nonball hand to support the weight.
What to do: As you begin your approach, use your nonball hand to lift the ball up and out as far as feels somewhat natural…into a position where your swing arm can serve largely as a free-swinging pendulum, so its muscles never need to tense. Once you get comfortable with this natural pendulum swing, your delivery will become much easier to repeat than muscling the ball down the lane ever could be—physics is more reliable than muscle strength.
Stop bending at the waist as you release the ball. It feels natural to bend, but it restricts your follow-through and leverage, reducing power and accuracy. Instead, keep your upper body fairly upright as you release the ball. Instead of bending at the waist, get low by bending your knees.
Use a ball that you don’t have to squeeze. As you swing, if you feel like you must squeeze the ball with the fingers of your swing arm to prevent the ball from flying away, you’re using the wrong ball. Squeezing forces you to more firmly engage the muscles of your hand and forearm—and using muscles this way makes a delivery difficult to repeat.
What to do: If you decide to buy your own ball, a reputable pro shop will determine the proper size and angles of the holes, as well as the distances between them, to create a good fit that allows you to use a light grip pressure. As a bonus, a light grip will reduce your risk for injury from overusing muscles. Don’t be surprised if a pro recommends a ball lighter than the one you have been using—modern bowling balls can deliver plenty of force with less weight than the balls of decades past.
If you bowl only rarely and want to use a bowling-center ball that isn’t custom-fit, look for one that you can get your fingers (including your thumb) all the way in but not so big that you have to squeeze the ball to keep your grip. The span should feel comfortable, too—not stretched or cramped.