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, considering that bowling is not regarded as a strength or power sport—at least not compared to football or basketball. But 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. For year-round training, work to reach the in-season standard and then maintain that level of training and fitness.

How Periodized Programs Work

Comprehensive training programs for individual sports are often “periodized” in order to provide a progressive and relevant training program. That is, they are broken up into three or four 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 and each successive phase builds on the previous one. Bowling is not necessarily a seasonal sport because it can be played all year. Even so, competitions may be seasonal, and you may want to peak at competition time.

Early Pre-Season

Players are preparing for the season and starting to build up after a 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.

In Season

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

Off Season

Relax for a while, but keep active if you want to get a flying start for next year. Emphasis 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.

Basic Weight Training for Bowling

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

Use these exercises to build strength and muscle. Lift moderately heavy weights in order to train the nervous system in conjunction with the muscle fibers to move bigger loads.

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.

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 each week rather than three. Strength training can be physically and mentally demanding.

You may be sore after these sessions. 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 if you feel any joint pain or discomfort.

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. 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 work. The final few repetitions should be taxing but not impossible.

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