Get Fit for Bowling Through Weight Training

bowling competition
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Comprehensive training programs for individual sports are often “periodized” in order to provide a progressive and time-relevant training program; that is, they are broken up into three or four phases in the year with each phase concentrating on a particular fitness development.

For professional sports that utilize weights in their training—which is most sports these days—each phase has different objectives and each successive phase builds on the previous one. Bowling is not necessarily a seasonal sport because it can be played all year, indoors. Even so, competitions may be seasonal, and you may want to peak at competition time. (This article is about indoor bowling and not lawn bowls.)

It may seem a little unusual to consider that bowlers could benefit from a weight training program, considering that bowling is not regarded as a strength or power sport—at least not compared to football or basketball. Not so; any sport that requires balance, upper-body and core control strength can benefit from a strength and conditioning program.

Bowling fits those requirements perfectly. If you were to follow a season approach to bowling, your weight training program might look like the one below. 

If this does not apply, then you should reach the in-season standard identified at item number three, and maintain that level of training and fitness.

How Periodized Programs Work

Early Pre-Season

Players are preparing for the season and starting to build up after the break. Emphasis is on building functional strength and some muscle bulk (hypertrophy).

Late Pre-Season

Players are working up to the start of the season. Emphasis is on building maximum power.


Competition or regular recreational bowling is underway, and you expect to be in peak condition. Maintenance of strength and power is emphasized.

Closed Season

Time to relax for a while but you need to keep active if you want to get a flying start for next year. Emphasis is on rest and recovery with maintenance of light activity: cross training, light gym work. A break from serious strength training is often helpful. As pre-season approaches, more regular gym work can resume.

Basic Approach of the Bowling Weight Training Program

I've designed a single-phase program for bowlers. It concentrates on building basic strength and muscle. This should suit most bowlers. If you play year-round you can continue with this workout as your basic program. If you take a break for longer than a month, start again with a gradual build-up.

Consider the program presented here an all-around program, best suited to beginners without a history of weight training. More sophisticated programs are always specific to an individual's current fitness, goals, and access to resources and coaches.

If you're new to weight training, brush up on principles and practices with the beginner resources.

Always warm up and cool down before and after a training session. A medical clearance for exercise is always a good idea at the start of the season.

Now, let's get started.

Basic Strength and Muscle Program

In this workout, you will build strength and muscle. The emphasis is on lifting moderately heavy weights in order to train the nervous system in conjunction with the muscle fibers to move bigger loads.

In this foundation phase, muscle building will also serve you well for strength development.

Do no more than three sessions a week.


Points to Note

  • Adjust the weight so that the final few repetitions are taxing but don't cause you to "fail" completely.
  • Although the upper body during ball delivery is where the action is expressed in bowling, the posterior chain of the hips, gluteals (butt), upper legs and the abdominals are of equal importance in the execution of the delivery. The squats and deadlifts build strength and power in this region to provide balance and control.
  • Do not work to failure for the upper body exercises, such as with the dumbbell press and lat pulldown, and do hold good form. Keep the forearms in a vertical plane with the upper arms not extending far below parallel at the bottom of the movement. It's important to protect the vulnerable shoulder joint when training for sports where the shoulder gets a lot of specific out-of-gym work on the lanes.
  • If you are unable to recover from a session with only one rest day in between, re-schedule this program to two sessions each week rather than three. Strength training can be physically and mentally demanding.
  • You may be sore after these sessions. Muscle soreness or delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is normal; joint pain is not. Be sure to monitor your arm and shoulder reactions to this training. Back off when any joint pain or discomfort is felt.
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