7 Exercises Every Bowler Should Know
As a former professional athlete turned teaching pro, Lucy Sandelin has endured injuries and soreness in her lower back, shoulders, knees, elbows, and wrists. When it comes to creating muscle imbalances, there might be no one-sided sport that’s as potentially hazardous as bowling. In Core Performance Golf, Mark Verstegen and I wrote about how that one-sided sport produces nagging ailments affecting the back, shoulders, and neck. But at least golfers are swinging relatively light clubs in spiked shoes on grass, not 15-pound bowling balls in slick shoes on slippery floors.
“There’s a lot of force when you’re taking those four or five steps and coming into the foul line,” says Sandelin, 54, who bowled professionally in the 1980s and now teaches players of all ages. “It’s a lot of movement and energy. You’re doing this fast walk and you have to slide stop, which makes your knees and hips so important. All the while you have to be balanced so you can hit a target.”
Sandelin worried that her playing career would end early until she discovered how core training could eliminate her back problems, strengthen her pillar, and create better stability and mobility. That enabled her to bowl pain-free but also improved her balance, and thus her game.
Here are a few movements to improve your performance at the lanes:
Reverse Lunge, Elbow to Instep (with Rotation)
This staple of Movement Prep routines is effective to do pre-game or before practice as an active, full-body warm-up. And since there’s usually some wide-open, carpeted areas at the bowling alley, it’s easy to find an adequate, comfortable space. “Movement Prep is a great ritual to add to your pre-bowling routine to help actively work both flexibility and stability on both sides of your body, helping to fight asymmetries, bring yourself back in balance, and prepare for the physical demands ahead,” says Kevin Elsey, director of the performance innovation team for Athletes’ Performance. “This is one movement that provides great bang for your buck, helping to open up and activate your hips, torso, and shoulders.”
Plank with Arm Lift and Glute Bridge Marching
In bowling, all the forces generated from your approach to your release must be efficiently linked from your legs, hips, torso, and shoulders into the ball. Any energy leaks throughout this chain can lead to aches and pains that will throw you off your game. “To deal with the large asymmetrical loads caused by the mass of the ball swinging on one side of your body, adding a rotational stability emphasis (as in the movements below) will help you manage these rotational forces and boost your durability,” Elsey says. “By focusing on your pillar strength and placing a rotational emphasis in your routine, you’ll move more efficiently in the lane.”
These two moves strengthen and stabilize your pillar, which encompasses your hips, torso, and shoulders, all critical for bowling. Sandelin found that doing the planks consistently not only improved her balance but also gave her some much-needed upper body strength. While you’re on the floor—perhaps at that carpeted bowling center or at home—do some Glute Bridge Marching (shown below) to build your hip strength as well.
Knee Hugs and Leg Cradles
Being able to balance and remain stable on one leg is integral to bowling, as well as virtually any other sport. “You’re balancing on one foot all the time,” Sandelin says. “If I fall off at the foul line, it’s like I’m trying to hit a moving target. But if you’re balanced, it’s hard to miss because your body is lined up and your swing will be perfect.” Knee Hugs and Leg Cradles are two exercises that you can include in your Movement Prep routine to improve your stability on one leg while keeping your hips loose.
Foam Roll – Chest and Stability Ball Ys
Bowlers, like a lot of athletes, have a tendency to muscle the ball with the biceps rather than engage the shoulders and use the arms more efficiently as pendulums. That tendency is exacerbated by a technology-based culture that leaves many people hunched over computers with shoulders rolled forward all day, leaving the muscles of their chest short and tight. That’s why movements like these are so important. Combining the foam roll move to open up your chest and shoulders with Stability Ball Ys (see also: Stability Ball Ts and Ws) reactivates the muscles that help stabilize your shoulders and helps restore healthy posture. “You want to make sure you’re able to activate the muscles that support your movement, both in bowling and the game of life,” Elsey says. “Making a small investment of five to 10 minutes in your pre-game or practice rituals will provide huge payoffs.”
About The Author
Pete Williams – Pete Williams is a contributing writer for CorePerformance.com and the co-author of the Core Performance book series.