At some point in every bowler’s playing career, they ask what they can do to generate more speed on the bowling ball to deliver more power to the pins on impact.
There are several ways to increase your bowling ball speed, and while some might seem obvious, they may not actually work and possibly result in injuries or risk of harm to the bowler while losing ball speed!
We will look at all the factors that influence ball speed, from the approach to the ball’s weight, training, warms ups, and a few other ideas that will all help you throw your bowling ball faster!
What is a good speed for a bowling ball?
A ball speed between 17 and 19mph is considered average, while rates lower than 17mph are slow. Speeds above 19mph are considered fast. According to various studies, the optimum impact speed for a ball is 18mph.
A bowling ball will lose about three mph – 3.5mph from release to impact, so to achieve the optimum speed, you’d need to release the ball at around 21mph! While this may seem a rate reserved only for the young, strong, and fit – there are quite a few methods you can use to boost your speed on release.
What’s the Fastest Bowling Speed Ever Recorded?
Oska Palermaa of Finland has probably thrown the fastest recorded shots in history with average speeds of 28mph, but this video shot in July 2020 shows a clocked speed of 33.13 mph and a strike to boot!
The fastest ever recorded speed of a bowling ball was a staggering 140mph+!
On September 20, 2019, Jason Belmonte, the #1 ranked bowler and Nascar driver Aric Almirola successfully released a bowling ball from a racecar at 140mph, and the resulting strike sent the pins flying! You can see that video here.
While these kinds of speeds are not something you’d see at your local alley, the principles used are the same that would allow you to throw your ball faster, too – don’t expect your alley manager to enable you to drive your car in there!
What Gives the Bowling Ball Its Speed?
Essentially the speed of the ball is due to two main factors, the rate of release from the hand and gravity. The release speed comes from the arm speed, and the speed of approach to the line and the height of the ball in hand causes gravity to pull it down to the ground on release.
Once the ball is released down the lane, it will slow down as gravity and friction take over. So the critical aspect of bowling ball speeds has to do with the shot mechanics on approach, lift, and release.
Why do Bowlers Want High Ball Speed?
The game is all about knocking the pins down or sending them flying! To achieve this, the ball needs to strike the pins with as much force as possible. Combining the ball’s weight and speed creates kinetic energy, which is transferred to the pins on the impact.
Thus, the higher the ball speed, the more kinetic energy is created, and the more kinetic energy, the more power at impact! Think of your bowling ball like a bullet, and your body is the gun. The more speed you can impart to the projective, the more power it delivers on impact.
In the bowling game, the goal is to throw as many strikes as possible to achieve the highest scores. The more strikes, the higher the scores. To get a strike, you need to be accurate and deliver speed on the ball.
While a bowler can achieve higher ball speed, the consequence of that is usually a loss of accuracy and this, of course, leads to the very opposite of the desired goal – a LOWER SCORE!
This is the result of using the incorrect technique and approach to achieve a higher ball speed. Before we get into the proper way to increase your throwing speed, let’s look at some of the methods or ideas that bowlers THINK will work and why they fail.
The Two Things You Should Never Use For Faster Ball Speed
Many bowlers think that either increasing their swing speed on their arm as they come to release or raising the backswing height will improve the swing speed. While there may be a slight increase in ball velocity, these techniques are not recommended as they could lose accuracy.
Both actions provide the opportunity in the process for the ball and the arm to move offline or result in changing angles in the hand or wrist on release. Naturally, this will lead to loss of control, and the resulting shots will be inaccurate.
Not only that, but the weight of the ball combined with the force of release and any movement or twisting of the hand or wrists at release can cause injury; this is why these two methods are generally not recommended.
Using these could damage your shoulder, elbow, wrist, hand, and fingers as the excessive momentum generated while not under control can easily pull ligaments and hyper-extend joints. All in all, there are better ways to create more speed.
Eight Ways You Can Throw A Bowling Ball Faster
Now that we’ve looked at what not to do let us look at seven methods you can use properly and safely to increase your bowling ball speed without losing accuracy.
- Increasing the ball weight
- Faster approach
- Relaxing your body
- Higher hold position
- Maintain your form
- Improving flexibility
- Strength Training
Let’s examine each of these in more detail so you can better understand how and why these training methods and techniques can help you throw your ball faster while lowering the risk of injury and keeping your accuracy.
1) Increasing the Ball Weight.
In bowling, the rule of thumb is to use a ball that is 10% of your body weight. So if you are 160lbs, then your ball should be 16lbs, etc. The increase in ball weight will add more momentum, which will result in more speed at the release.
While you may have the ball suited to your body weight, the simple physics behind this is sound. Adding weight to the ball at your existing speed will add more momentum and thus more speed.
This is an excellent way to start as you don’t need to try and throw any harder or lose your form or control in the process. The extra weight will do it all for you.
Remember that you don’t have to go from a 16lb ball to a 22lb ball, but simply slightly heavier; maybe 17lb or 18lb will be enough to boost your speed and impact power while not placing any additional severe stress on your arms or shoulders or compromising your form.
2) Increase the Approach Speed
This option has both pros and cons, but the downside is minimal as the only thing that can potentially go wrong is a loss of form, and of course, this would lead to less control and lower accuracy.
So, how do you go about increasing the approach speed?
Firstly, let’s examine how this would work to improve throwing speed. When you are moving to approach and release, your approach speed develops momentum n your body and specifically your hips.
Using your legs to generate speed on approach is a far more efficient option than increasing arm speed or having a higher backswing.
Your major leg muscles like the quads and glutes (your butt) are the biggest in your body and can easily out-muscle your arms and shoulders any day! By using these big muscle groups effectively, you can generate more speed and more power.
You may need to experiment with the longer distance to generate more foot speed, but this is a surefire method to get you more speed on power on your throw. Remember that your body’s center of gravity is always part of your action, and the faster your hips are moving, the power you will deliver on release.
While it may seem logical that a faster arm speed would be the answer, power without balance and control is nothing. To become consistent ( and that’s the KEY HERE) in improving your throwing speed, you need to ensure you have balance at release.
Not addressing your footwork is not an option when you are looking to exert more force as your feet keep you on the ground and, like golf, allow power to flow evenly through your frame at the point of release.
This is probably the single most significant change you can make that will effectively and safely increase your throwing speed. You can increase the pace of each successive step as you build-up to the release.
Not working on your legs and approach and simply trying to accelerate the arm or raise the ball higher will leave your timing out, and again, the result will be a loss of accuracy and even a speed reduction!
To demonstrate how this works, take a few steps. Then go back to where you started and take the same few steps just faster, and you’ll end up further away than the first time. This is the footwork principle in action!
The next step is to match the tempo of the footwork with the throw. You can easily do this by doing it slowly and getting a good solid clean release. Then, starting further back from the foul line, increase your pace and match it to the swing’s tempo.
You’ll achieve a higher speed just by letting your feet do all the work!
3) Relaxing your Body Gives You More Power And Speed
The natural reaction with many sports like golf, baseball, and bowling is that when you try to exert more force, you try and MUSCLE IT! This has the OPPOSITE effect in that it creates muscular tension in the body and limbs.
Having tension in your arm or shoulder when throwing will slow you down as it prevents the arm from moving at its maximum pace during release. To achieve a higher throwing speed, you need to relax your major muscle groups, especially your legs and arms.
The swinging motion of the arms and the acceleration in the legs is where all the power and speed originate. The more relaxed they are, the more power they can deliver through the body and the ball.
Imagine an old-time catapult with a stiff, inflexible rope instead of an elastic material. With the amount of force needed to hurl the rock, a rigid rope would either snap or not throw the rock very far.
With a flexible rope, the catapult could quickly generate more power and throw that rock a country mile without any real effort, simply using the FORM of the machine to do so.
Another way to test this is to try and throw a baseball or football with your arms and body tensed up! Firstly you’re not going to throw it very far, and secondly, it’s going to feel awkward doing it- it would make a great YouTube video, though!
These two examples demonstrate the need to have your body relaxed through your action as this is optimum to achieve maximum mechanical acceleration.
4) Use The Higher Hold Position to Create Greater Speed
As discussed above, your footwork is paramount as the first step to achieving a higher ball speed. Coupled with that, the higher hold position would add some gravitational momentum as well.
Again, this is simple physics as the higher position creates an increased distance in your swing arc, providing more speed on delivery without losing accuracy.
Remember that this technique alone will not deliver the actual results in terms of speed – you have to generate the balance and increased speed on approach coupled with this technique to see the benefits!
Watch your head position
Your head is the single heaviest part of your body, and where your head goes, your body has to follow. If you find yourself off-balance in your release or approach, the chances are that your head is moving around.
If you watch the top players bowl, you’ll see their heads are super-still, and this allows them to maintain form and balance while throwing those fast, accurate strikes frame after frame!
Focus on keeping your head still throughout your delivery, and you’ll see what a difference it makes in the consistency and quality of your form.
5) Maintain your form
If you’ve ever watched Bryson De Chambeau unleash one of his monster swings, you’ll see how his form often deteriorates in the process, and the ball goes far but hooks or fades and ends up miles offline.
This sacrifice of form is caused by the extreme over-exertion of force in the body, causing the swing mechanics to become unbalanced and uncontrolled resulting in poor shots.
Well, the same is true in bowling. If you try and launch your ball at 200mph, you will lose control and balance and will be lucky if the ball doesn’t lane hop!
Maintaining proper form is a crucial aspect of throwing your ball faster, accurately, and consistently. To wit, it would be worthwhile to get some form of coaching so that while you work on faster footwork and higher hold, you also maintain your balance and technique.
The proper form allows you to increase the power and speed effectively in your action while maintaining your accuracy, which should be the goal of every player.
Keep your form at the line!
Many amateur players tend to release their form at the line, and this is another factor that influences both power and accuracy. Like the follow-through in golf, keeping your form through release will significantly assist in your quest for better scores as you will keep your balance and focus on the quality of the release.
6) Warm-Up Before and Stretch After Every Game
If you want to play this game well, you need to have flexibility as well. Due to the forces involved in the action, being flexible in the associated joints ( wrists, hands, shoulders, legs, hips) will significantly lower your risk of injury and, more importantly, allow you to perform and execute at a greater level of ability!
Many people underestimate the real advantages of stretching before and after training or a game, but these have been scientifically proven to have significant long-term benefits.
Longevity, lower risk of injury, better performance, and faster recovery from exertion and injury are all well known, acknowledged, and recommended results of a proper stretching routine in any sport, and bowling is no different.
What kind of Warm-up should you do?
Start with some light aerobic activity like a quick run around the block or light skipping, and then move to the stretching part of your warm-up. This increases blood flow to the muscles before stretching.
Stretches should focus on the limbs and joints that will be used, so they are ready to explode into action from ball one!
Players that don’t stretch often find that it takes them a while to move into top gear as this is the time it takes for the body to warm up. By warming up and stretching BEFORE you play, you gain a distinct performance advantage over players that don’t.
Here is a suggested range of stretches to do before playing or training.
7) Improve your Flexibility
Aside from warming up, a good stretching program that works specifically for bowling should be part of your external training regimen. The good news is that you don’t have to do this every day, although that certainly wouldn’t hurt your game or your health.
Yoga-type exercises that are slow and easy on the body promote blood flow and help the body de-stress and remove toxins from the bloodstream. Outside of that, they will strengthen the ligaments and joints used in bowling and significantly reduce the risk of associated injuries.
More robust and more flexible ligaments assist in the transmission of power through the joints and into the hands and fingers, allowing for more power to be effectively delivered to the ball and increasing your ability to throw the ball faster.
An infinite number of resources could provide a simple stretching program either for free or for a few dollars, and viewing this as an investment in your skills development would be the right approach mindset.
If your goal is to throw faster, score better and advance your playing levels, then flexibility is non-negotiable, and the pro players will tell you this without hesitation. While you may never get to the 33mph speed of Oska Palermaa, you certainly can increase your speed by a few mph and get to within the optimum strike speed of around 17-18mph.
8) Strength Training
The best way to improve your throwing speed is to get stronger! Adding a weight or resistance training regimen will enhance your power and, combined with flexibility, will see you throw your ball faster.
No matter your age, a properly structured strength training program will work wonders for your bowling. Unless you are medically unfit to lift weights, there is no excuse not to – provided you genuinely want to throw consistently faster while maintaining your accuracy.
To do this effectively, you don’t need to join a gym or get a personal trainer. You can find these exercises online and create your program with little or no cost.
What Muscles Would You Need to Work On?
Bowling is a full-body sport, so that any full-body workout would be ideal. You would need to do both upper and lower body training to improve overall strength and power.
Here is a list of the upper and lower body exercises you can boost your muscle power!
- Dumbbell incline bench press
- Dumbbell biceps arm curl
- Dumbbell bent-over row
- Dumbbell triceps extension or
- Triceps pushdown
- Lat pulldown to the front, with a wide grip
- Seated cable row
Lower Body Exercises
- Squats (barbell squat, dumbbell squat, or sled hack squat)
- Romanian deadlift
- Hanging Leg Raise
These can be done with a simple home gym setup or at your local gym if you are a member. You could also do many of these without needing weight to start, which would also improve your strength and power.
Suppose you look for example at increasing your bolwing ball weight. In that case, adding strength training would help you build the strength you need to play a heavier ball and allow you to gradually increase the ball weight beyond what you could have done if you hadn’t done the weight training.
Doing weight training has some added benefits as well for both men and women. It’s a great stress reliever, aids in tissue recovery, lymph drainage, and promotes good blood flow. While you don’t need to become a ripped bodybuilder in the process, you will feel healthier and stronger for it!
Now You Know How To Throw Faster, Do It!
Throwing your bowling ball faster will require determination and commitment from your side, as would any sport where the desire to improve is there. But you now have the tools to do it, and all you need is a plan!
Being able to throw faster, more often, and accurately will improve your confidence and, of course, your score; after all, who doesn’t want to throw more pin exploding strikes with unerring accuracy and watch that scorecard overdose in Xs!