How to Bowl a Strike

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Strikes are hard things to do in bowling. This article will show you how to improve your force, direction, and balance.


  1. Get the right equipment. No matter what you do, if the ball cant catch any friction on the lanes, its not going to hook. Generally, you need a ball made of Reactive Resin or better (e.g. Particle load or newer epoxy resin coverstocks) for anything but the driest of lanes. These are very easy to find and can be bought at relatively little expense. Though most bowling centers do offer "house balls," they are generally plastic (polyester) and wont hook very much, though they are good for most spares since they will travel very straight. Having your own plastic ball for spares (spare ball), and a resin ball for strikes and some spares (strike ball) is a good idea for any level of bowler as house balls do not usually fit your hand perfectly and wont carry pins very well.
  2. Have your ball(s) drilled correctly. This is a personal thing depending on how and where you bowl, so you will need to talk to your local pro-shop operator for advice on this one. The drilling for the ball is very important, if not crucial, so make sure the drilling is appropriate for the conditions you bowl on and your own physical limitations. Obviously, it is critical that your own ball is fitted to your hand, but if you purchase a ball, the pro shop operator will do this as part of the cost of the drilling.
  3. Use the proper grip. Grip the ball with the two middle fingers (the middle and ring fingers) of your dominant hand (i.e. The hand you write with), and place your thumb the whole way into the thumb hole. There are 2 main types of grips: conventional, where the middle and ring fingers are inserted up to the second knuckle; and the fingertip grip, where the same fingers are inserted only up to the first knuckle. Finger-tip grips will give you more revs than a conventional grip. A new thing out these days in the bowling community are Vacu-Grips. These grips will expand and contract to your finger width. This helps if you are going to bowl a lot. You will find that most of the pros use a finger tip grip, as it allows you can get your fingers out of the ball much more quickly. In addition, there is the Sarge Easter grip. This grip is uncommon and much more advanced. It is designed to help power players control their shot by reducing the revolutions on the ball. Also, tucking your pinky finger and changing your index and pinky finger positions are more advanced techniques that slightly alter the release but are not a good idea for beginners.
  4. Visualize the line youll take across the lane. Depending on the lanes you bowl on, this will vary greatly, but lets focus on a typical house condition. Most of the oil is on the inside, leaving roughly 8-10 boards of relatively dry lane to be used. These boards can be both a friend and enemy to you. Depending on the amount of oil and the way your ball reacts to different lane conditions, you will want to line up your feet slightly to the left hand side of the lane. Starting with your right foot on the middle dot on the approach is a good way to test how much the lanes are hooking. It is important to keep your feet closely together. Stand with your heels several inches from the foul line and take the amount of steps in your approach away from the lane to determine your starting position. If you have a 4 step approach take 4 steps, etc. You then want to aim to throw your ball at one of the arrows on the lane. The easiest way to teach aiming is to use the arrow markings or the dots that are just before the arrows on the lane. For this tutorial, you should start off aiming somewhere around the second arrow on the right, allowing the ball to roll over this arrow, move out to only a few boards from the gutter, and then hook from the dry spot of the lane (about 38 to 40 feet down on a house shot) all the way back to the 1-3 pocket (for a left hander, this would be the 2nd arrow on the left, and the ball would hook to the 1-2 pocket).
  5. Make the swing. A 4 step approach is recommended, though you can use as little as 1 step and as many as 8 (though most steps over 4 are basically just timing steps where your ball doesnt move). For a 4 step approach, you want to push off the ball on your first step, stepping with your right foot first for right-handed players; have the ball be parallel to your ankle at the 2nd step, and start to bend at your knees; be at the top of your back swing by your third step; and then bring the ball back through and release by the end of your slide. With 5 steps, its basically the same thing, only youll start with your left foot instead, and the ball wont move for that first step. Keep in mind that you want your arm to remain completely straight the entire way through your swing; having your arm tucked too far behind you or held too far away from your body will cause a bad angle when you release the ball. Its easiest to keep your arm straight if you adjust your push away. There are many different styles such as bending at the waist (a la Walter Ray Williams Jr. or Wes Malott) or opening your shoulders (a la Tommy Jones or Chris Barnes) when you bring your arm up for the backswing, but sticking to the basics is a good idea when first learning how to do this. Remember, you want the ball to hook when it gets to the dry area at the back of the lane, but until it gets there, the ball should be traveling a relatively straight path, varying only a few boards at most. Again, everyone has a different style, and you can adjust this as you feel comfortable.
  6. Time your release. As you begin to drop the ball out of the backswing, make sure that your palm is directly underneath the ball, facing upwards. Now, as the ball starts to approach your ankle, you want to rotate the ball so that when you release your hand, it is on the side of the ball and slightly under it, just as if you were holding a football to throw an underhand spiral. Then follow through as though you were going to be shaking hands with the pins. A good way to practice this technique is to actually throw an underhand spiral with a football; similar physics are involved.
  7. Follow through. Just as important as the release itself is following through with your arm after you let go of the ball. After release it is important to follow through outward onto the lane, not upward. Your fingers will create the upward lift without you having to lift upward on the ball. An easy way to remember this is the old ESPN advert: "Roll the ball, then answer the phone." Though, hopefully you have better form than the guy in that commercial. And remember, fluidity here is essential: do not do the hand-shake, pause slightly, and then do the follow through -- it must all be one smooth motion. A good follow through is crucial to maintaining consistent ball speed and accuracy.
  8. Make the necessary adjustments. Once you are comfortable with your release, and can execute it properly on a consistent basis, you can learn to adjust your footwork in tandem with your release. On a house pattern, you want to move the direction you are missing: For a right hander, if your ball hits high (to the left of the headpin), then try moving your feet a couple of boards to the left and keeping your target on the lane the same as before. If you hit the pocket light (to the right of the 3 pin), try moving your feet a couple of boards to the right and keep your target the same. It is important to move your target on the lane when you move your feet. Otherwise you may end up playing very weird angles. Once you become more advanced and start playing on more challenging sport lane conditions, the left and right moves become more complicated and sometimes speed and hand adjustments are required.


  1. Start with the left foot. Starting with the right foot could throw you off balance. If youre left handed, start on the left side. If you start on the right side you are probably going to get a gutter ball.
  2. Calm yourself - take 3 deep breaths. Step to the approach and pick up your ball.
  3. When you take your steps forward, try to keep your shoulders parallel with the foul line. Twisting your torso side to side will cause inaccuracy.
  4. As you swing the ball back and then forward, do so in a straight line, perpendicular to the foul line. Do not swing the ball around your body or throw it side arm.
  5. Make sure that you stop your foot just behind the foul line because if you do not you can get a foul which means even if you get a strike you earn no points, so beware.
  6. Usually there are dots on the lane so aim for the middle one, making sure you do not throw the ball too hard because this can catch you off guard. After practice you can begin to throw the ball harder and harder and eventually you should be able to throw the ball right down the middle for a strike. This might not always work so do not worry too much if you miss. Practice should last approx. 1-3 months.
  7. After you get more confident, try to look up at the pins and not the floor. As for aim, when you release the ball, try to shake hands with the head pin. You should also aim your thumb to the middle pin.


  • Make sure you have the heaviest ball that you can comfortably handle.
  • A good attitude leans toward a better score.
  • If you want to hit just on either side of the head pin.
  • If you typically leave the 5 pin (behind the head pin) you need to hit more on the head pin.
  • If you typically leave pins on the side, you are hitting too much on the head pin.
  • If you get more serious or join a league, you will likely get your own equipment.


  • Make sure you do not hit your leg with the ball when youre about to throw.
  • If you get angry because you missed the strike, youre never going to get a good amount of pins on the next throw.
  • A ball the wrong weight will be too soft/tough for you.

Things You Will Need

  • A bowling ball
  • A bowling alley
  • Your own pair of shoes. Otherwise, it is required to borrow the bowling alleys pairs.
  • A powder bag can help keep a hold on the ball.
  • A wrist support can help if you are using a very heavy ball

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