Archive of Past Tips

A Timing Tune-Up

A bowler’s timing is the relationship between the ball swinging at the end of your arm and the rest of your body.  A bowling ball that is swinging at the end of your arm has a lot of power. It has the power to twist your body all around if it’s not in sync with the rest of your body. Your body of course being much heavier than the ball,  also has the power to change the intended path of the ball, even if we don’t engage our muscles.

This article is basically about how to adjust your timing if you are just off a little. If your timing is not even in the same zip code as the rest of your body then these little tips will not help much. If your timing is off that much then you need a complete overhaul not a little tune up.

The most common thing I hear bowlers tell other bowlers is “Slow down”!  That one term seems to be the end all-fix all approach from our teammates. Well, the bowler could be walking too fast or too slow, but whatever pace the bowler’s body has chosen, it’s hard to change.

If you are bowling league and you are walking a little too fast it’s really hard to just slow down with any consistency. You may throw a shot or two at the slower pace, but your body will try and go right back where it was comfortable on the next shot. The same is true if you are walking too slowly.

Walking too fast or too slow can of course throw your timing off. A quick fix to try is to just change the length of your first step. If you think you are walking too slow then just try taking a shorter first step. This will have the same effect on your timing as walking faster. Taking a shorter first step completes your foot work a little sooner without you actually walking faster. You would use this if you think the ball is getting to the foul line a little too early. If the ball is getting to the foul line too soon it will feel like the ball is actually getting there before your sliding foot. In most cases it’s not, but it just has to get there sooner than normal to feel that way. This is called early timing. Some symptoms of early timing would be pulling the ball inside your target and a loss of revs. Keep in mind that this is not the only reason a bowler pulls the ball or loses revs, it’s just one of them.

Walking too fast has the opposite effect on your timing. If you walk too fast then you will beat your ball to the foul line by a large margin. This can cause you to throw the ball outside of your target. This is caused by your body feeling that the ball is a little behind, so it tries to make up for it by forcing the ball forward. This puts an outside torque in your upper body that makes you throw the ball to the outside.

Instead of trying to slow your feet down, try taking a little bigger first step the next time you practice. Sometimes that will get your timing back close but it’s not as good of a fix as taking a shorter first step for bowlers walking too slowly. Your brain will know that it is closer to the foul line after the first step and slow the steps a little in order to keep you from fouling. You can also try moving up on the approach about 8 inches in your stance. This is often a better fix and will usually slow your feet nicely and sometimes that’s just the trick to get your timing back on track.

It has been my experience that bowlers tend to lengthen their first step over time; especially those that take 5 steps. This slowly but surely gives the bowler early timing and is often the cause of pulled shots. The cure is of course to just take a smaller first step.

Believe me you can’t feel the length of your first step, so if you decide to cut it in half you will actually only shorten it a few inches. Your muscle memory will try to put the step back where it was each time so you will have to remind yourself to change the first step before each shot. If you have to, in practice look down and actually watch yourself take the first step then look up at your target. That way you can actually see if your first step is too long. 

If you don’t feel comfortable looking down at your feet for your first step, have a friend help out. Put a piece of tape on the approach where you wish your first step to go. If your friend sees you miss the tape he needs to say “stop” and you should stop and start over. That’s the quickest way to reprogram your muscles to do what you wish.  After a while your muscle memory will get reprogrammed and you will not have to think about it anymore. 

Another common timing problem comes from not letting the ball fall freely in the push-away. This can cause you to shorten your swing cycle which in turn causes early timing. The more pressure on the bowler to throw a good shot the more likely this is to happen. I covered this in detail in a previous article called “Just let it fall”. The remedy is of course to just let the ball fall freely immediately after the push-away.

The next most common reason for bad timing is not waiting on the ball in the back-swing. The bowler gets in a hurry to throw the ball so they cut the back-swing short, not allowing the ball to reach the peak of the back-swing. This one can have an effect that is a little unpredictable on your timing. Cutting off the back-swing has the effect of shortening the swing cycle which would give you early timing. But the added muscle of stopping the ball short and forcing it forward can sometimes offset the early timing effects by forcing the shoulders open more. Usually this will just cause an inconsistent performance.

Make sure you try out these “tune ups”  in practice so you can get a feel for how they will affect your game

Bowl great!
            Ron Clifton

I can be reached by email at

I can be contacted through email at