Get Fit for Bowling Through Weight Training

bowling competition

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It may seem a little unusual to consider that bowlers could benefit from a weight training program. Bowling is not regarded as a strength or power sport, after all, at least not compared to football or basketball.

But any sport that requires balance, upper-body strength, and a strong core can benefit from a strength and conditioning program. Bowling fits these requirements perfectly.

Using Periodized Programs for Increased Strength

Comprehensive weight training programs for individual sports are often “periodized." That is, they are broken up into three or four periods or phases, with each phase concentrating on a particular fitness development and aligning with the sports season.

For professional sports that utilize weights in their training, which is most sports these days, each phase has different objectives. These objectives build on the objectives set in the previous phase. This provides a progressive and relevant training program.

Creating a Seasonal Bowling Strength Training Regimen

Bowling is not necessarily a seasonal sport because it can be played all year. Even so, competitions may be seasonal. Therefore, you may want to peak when it is time to compete.

If you want to follow a seasonal approach to bowling, your weight training program might look like the one below. For year-round training, work to reach the in-season standard and then maintain that level of training and fitness.

Early Pre-Season

During the early stages of pre-season, players are just beginning to prepare for the season ahead. They are coming off a break and starting to work on their fitness. Emphasis during this phase is on building functional strength and some muscle bulk.

Although the importance of heavy weights were emphasized in the past, increasing muscle mass can also be accomplished by starting with lighter weights that are lifted more times. Once those weights feel easy to lift, increase them in short increments. As you work your way up in weights, you may have to reduce your repetitions.

Late Pre-Season

Players in this stage are getting closer to the start of the season. They've been doing their workouts aimed at building muscle strength and size. Now it's time to focus more on building maximum power.

Power is helpful in bowling because it maximizes the speed and strength with which you throw the ball. Plyometrics are one way to increase your power. Agility exercises can boost your power too.


You are considered in-season in bowling when competitions or regular recreational bowling is underway. At this point, you want to be in peak physical condition so you are able to stay strong throughout the entire game.

During this phase, it is helpful to work primarily on maintaining your strength and power. You don't need to try to become stronger or gain more muscle mass. Simply focus on not losing the muscle that you have.


Typically, off-season in any sport is synonymous with taking a break and relaxing for a while. A little downtime is certainly okay. But you may want to keep somewhat active if you want to get a flying start on the next year.

The main goal during the off-season is on rest and recovery with maintenance of light activity, such as cross training or light gym work. A break from serious strength training is often helpful.

Strength Training Exercises for Bowlers

Although the upper body is where the action is expressed in bowling, the posterior chain of the hips, glutes (butt), upper legs, and abdominals are still important. A comprehensive strength training program includes exercises for both.

Upper-Body Strength Training Exercises

There are a few strength exercises that can be helpful for bowlers by building muscle in your upper body. You don't have to work to failure to get results with these movements, but you do want to hold good form.

Keep your forearms in a vertical plane without letting your upper arms extend too far below parallel at the bottom of the movement. It's also important to protect the shoulder joint when training for sports like bowling, where the shoulder gets a lot of work.

Good upper-body exercises to include in your bowling strength training program include:

The final few repetitions should be taxing but not impossible. If you aren't able to retain your form, it's time to lighten the weights.

Lower-Body Strength Training Exercises

Incorporating lower-body exercises not only increases your strength and power but also contributes to better balance, stability and control. This is beneficial when you're directing the ball where you want it to go.

A few lower-body strength exercises to include in your bowling workout program include:

These three exercises build basic strength and muscle, which should suit most bowlers. They are best for beginners without a history of weight training.

If you aren't new to strength training, you may decide to lift moderately heavy weights. This helps to train the nervous system and muscle fibers to move bigger loads.

Basic Weight Training Tips for Bowlers

If you bowl year-round, 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.

Always warm up and cool down before and after a training session. A medical clearance is also a good idea at the start of the season. This confirms that the exercises are safe for your physical health and fitness level.

Strength training can be physically and mentally demanding. So, do no more than three sessions a week. If you are unable to recover from a session with only one rest day in between, cut back to two sessions weekly instead.

You may be sore after these sessions. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is completely normal. Continue to monitor how your arms and shoulders respond to the exercises. Back off if you feel any pain or discomfort.

6 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Paul Rogers
Paul Rogers is a personal trainer with experience in a wide range of sports, including track, triathlon, marathon, hockey, tennis, and baseball.