The “Force” is not with You

            In bowling we have as many “don’t dos” as “do dos”. In a lot of cases it’s harder to “not” do something than it is “to” do something. As a bowling coach, I spend as much time teaching bowlers “not” to do something as I do trying to get them “to” do something.

            There are several “don’t dos” that seem perfectly natural “to do”.  The two most common ones are gripping the ball tightly and forcing the armswing. In all other sports that involve throwing a ball we “grip it and rip it”. The only problem is that those other sports don’t use 16 pound balls. When you “grip and rip” a heavy bowling ball, bad things can happen. Things like a poor, unrepeatable release, inconsistent armswing timing, poor body-to-ball interaction, under-over ball reaction and less accuracy.

            This article is about attacking the “force” problem that plagues most bowlers. Most of the time, this force takes place from the top of the backswing through the release point. This equates to “throwing” the ball just as you would throw a softball underhanded.

            A bowling ball is very heavy compared to a softball. When you push against a heavy object, it pushes back. Actually, all objects push back, but the heavier the object, the more it pushes back or resists movement. Don’t believe me? Try pushing a shopping cart through a store. Then put a 50 pound kid in there. You will feel the difference.

            We as bowlers don’t feel the ball pushing back when we force it because we are used to it and we expect it. I will spend hours trying to teach a bowler what it feels like not to force a ball. Once bowlers feel  this for first time, they can feel when they force the ball.

Why don’t we have to force it?

            A bowling ball that reaches a backswing peak of head high or higher at the end of a free-flowing arm will have plenty of ball speed for most conditions. It’s as simple as that.

When do we force the ball?

            Most bowlers start forcing the ball from the top of the backswing down; but often bowlers will get in a hurry and start forcing the ball back forward, even before it reaches the top of the backswing. This has ruined many great players’ games. Bowling under pressure can often cause us to force the ball even if we normally don’t.

            Even if you are a successful bowler that has forced the ball your entire life, you can still often find yourself forcing the ball more than normal and it will kill your game. This often occurs after a player has bowled on dry lanes for a long period of time.

            Forcing the ball more than normal will cause you to have the same symptoms as early timing. Your release will become weaker and you will often tend to “pull” the ball inside your target. You can exhibit perfect “next to last step timing” and still have early timing by the time you deliver the ball. The reason is that the forced ball will simply outrun your feet.

            A bowler that starts forcing the ball before it reaches the top of the backswing can really get into trouble. This act of impatience causes really early timing. The ball starts back forward before it even reaches the full height of the backswing, so it doesn’t travel as far in the swing and easily outruns the feet.


How do we stop forcing the ball?

            The first step is to “wait” on the ball. Try to feel the ball reach the top of the backswing and start to come down on its own.  You can picture a kid in a swing. You can push a kid in a swing really high, but you don’t have to run behind him and pull him down again. The kid in the swing will come down on his own thanks to gravity. Your bowling ball is the same way. No matter how high your backswing is, the ball will come back down on its own and at a rate of 32 feet per second squared for those into physics.

            If you have a pretty straight armswing, the ball will actually come to a brief stop at the very top before it starts back down again. If you have more of a loop-style backswing, your ball will never come to a dead stop, but you can still feel it reach the peak if you pay attention.  

            Learning to feel this brief pause at the top of your swing is very critical, even if you are always going to be a bowler that forces the ball down. In fact, when I teach bowlers how to throw the ball hard to overcome excessively dry lanes I teach them to gradually accelerate the ball after it starts falling on its own. It’s easier to accelerate the ball with less adverse effects on your body position if you wait until gravity gets the ball started first. To learn more about how to throw the ball faster and slower look up those articles in the archive on my website.

            The second step to learning not to force the ball is to ride the roller coaster. If you think about what it is like to ride a roller coaster over a big hill you will start to get an idea what I am talking about. If the hill is big enough you feel like you are leaving your stomach at the top of the hill. One thing you don’t have to do is get out and push the coaster down the hill, you simply ride it down. Your hand should feel the same way. The ball is the roller coaster and your hand is the rider. If you really pay attention and you don’t force the ball down you will actually feel what it is like to ride the ball down.


In photo “A” Andy Scott is waiting for the ball to reach the top of the backswing then he will let his hand ride the roller coaster down.

Until you are used to waiting on the ball it will seem like it takes forever to come down again.


            Bowlers that bend their elbow can often produce more  power but they can easily force the ball too much causing early timing. Often when these bowlers force the ball too much they bend the elbow even more in the process. This will really shorten the swing cycle and cause major timing problems.


        In this photo Storm Pro Staff member Todd Masingo displays a bent elbow for more power.

   Todd has to be very mindful of not forcing the ball too much or his elbow will bend even more. This force will cause his ball to outrun the rest of his body. This leads to early timing at the foul line causing pulled shots and inconsistent releases 


            Most of the best bowlers in the world do force the ball at least a little, but the majority of not-so-great bowlers force the ball way too much. You will never know the difference if you don’t learn how to not force it at all.


            Be sure to check out my live bowlers’ chat room each night after 11 PM Eastern Time. I am in there most nights so stop in and say hi.

All you have to do is click on the Lets talk button in the front page.

Bowl great!

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