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Rick Benoit's Expert Bowling Tips


     In the sport of bowling, there are few things as important as timing. Timing is also one of the most confusing parts of the game. Picture timing as being the synchronization of gears. There are various types of timing and the gears will operate with either, but imagine the inconsistency of a machine that has gears with poor synchronization. The most important issue when discussing timing is consistency. You will find that instructors tend to favor a specific timing based on their experiences. In my opinion there are two types of timing: approach timing and release timing. This can become a real problem if the instructor does not have the ability to separate approach timing and release timing. Once the two have been separated and understood, we need to bring them together so there is a feeling of leverage and freedom of motion.

     I believe in separating them, so it is easier to understand the purpose and importance of each. I prefer to start at the foul line and work backwards. How a bowler gets to the foul line has proven to be as varied as the type of balls being used on the lane. Once the bowler gets to the foul line you start to see a lot of similarities among the elite bowlers. I believe that the release timing is the key factor while approach timing allows the bowler to get to that position easier and more fluidly. It is not my intention to try and change a bowler's timing but understanding each will help you make a decision.

     Let's start with release timing. Release timing is basically the position of the ball in relation to the body leverage at the foul line. It all starts with body leverage. Imagine the body being in the perfect leverage position. When the body is in perfect leverage position, the force of the ball weight and motion will actually pull the body into the floor through the slide ankle. This will lock or secure the body and allow all the energy being applied through the swing motion to be transferred to the ball at release. Any variance of this body leverage is taking away from the energy transfer. If you do not understand body position at the foul line refer back to Tip entitled Preparing the Mind and Body to Bowl.

     Imagine a machine of any type placed at the foul line. Attach to one side of this machine an arm that swings, make sure that there is a weight attached to this arm equal to that of a bowling ball. Now pull the arm back as far as you like and let it go. It is quite obvious what will happen. Now increase the weight of the object and increase the height of the swing, and just because, add a little extra push to get the ball started faster. You will find the balance of the machine to be directly related to the weight and the swing force. Now picture how far away from the base of the machine the arm is located and the direction the arm is swung. You can imagine that the further away from the base the arm is then the more unstable the machine will be. At the same time imagine the direction this arm is swinging. This direction has a tremendous effect on the base as well.

     I hope this paints a good picture of what is going on at the foul line with your body. Your ankle is the base and you are applying the ball weight and swing force. Your machine will be as stable as your leverage and swing force permit. The greater the swing force, the greater the need for proper leverage. The closer the swing force is to the base (ankle) the greater the stability. When the stability is increased the greater the transfer of energy from the machine (body) to the ball.

     Now since we understand body leverage, understand the purpose of an approach. Ask yourself why we have an approach in bowling? I promise you it has nothing to do with consistency and accuracy. The reason we have an approach is because the pins are 60 feet away. We use the approach to create the momentum we need to provide the optimal energy at the pins. I bring this up because it is not a constant. Lets use the extreme examples here to paint a picture. If we were bowling on dirt and the pins were 60 feet away imagine the type of force it would take to get a ball to skid-roll-hook. That would be humanly impossible. Now imagine bowling on an ice rink. The pins are still 60 feet away try and get that ball to skid-roll-hook. These are the extremes and we do not see that wide a range in a bowling environment but I guarantee you that it can seem that extreme. If the surface friction was as low as it is in an ice rink we would not need an approach at all. As a matter of fact we would benefit by having less build up of momentum. And just the opposite on dirt or grass.

     This is how and where most bowlers develop release styles and timing synchronizations. If the emphasis is on speed and revs a bowler develops a certain style, If the desire is less speed and revs we have another and if revs are not ideal you will see another style to match the speed. I prefer to look at things as not right or wrong but relative to what you are bowling on. If you are competing on a given condition it is quite often to adapt your game to fit those conditions with no concern about others. If you are going to compete on a wide variety of conditions I think a bowler should learn a more versatile timing synchronization that allows a higher degree of tolerance.

     I do not know of a single bowler who is has perfect timing from shot to shot. It is not uncommon to see the timing a little earlier or a little later than perfect in a series of shots. What I believe in is having a timing that does not require too much perfection. We can see this by looking at the shape of the swing at the release point. If you see the swing as a perfect arc, there is no flat spot at the bottom of the swing. So if the timing is not consistent from shot to shot your body leverage and release timing will vary accordingly. If your timing is so called "perfect" your body will be in perfect leverage position just as the ball passes the ankle. If your timing is so called "early" the ball will pass the ankle before the body is in a good leverage position. If your timing is so called "late" your body will be in perfect leverage position before the ball reaches the ankle.

     To me the important factor is room for mistake. If you are early several things can happen and most of them are related to release and ball direction. None of which is optimal, so I do not believe you should try and achieve early timing. If you try and achieve perfect timing, I have no dissagreement but I warn you that nobody has perfect timing from shot to shot. If it is a little early you can over hit the ball or miss it entirely, If it is a little late you will certainly have a stronger leverage position and probably see a heavier roll on the ball. My objection is not with perfect timing but with the consequences of the inperfect shots. If you have late release timing and you are a little early, you are still late, if you are late you are still late, and with that in mind I prefer to see a bowler opt for a little later release timing because that means the body will always be in a good leverage postition and the energy transfer from the body to the ball is increased. In simple explaination I prefer to see the body in full leverage position before the ball reaches the ankle. Now lets discuss how we get to this position. This is where the approach timing comes into play.

     Approach timing is a fluid one peace motion and becomes very confusing when trying to think of it as a 4 or 5 step sequence. When disussing the optimal approach we see a balanced body and a build up of momenteum. The key element is getting to the optimal release timing with the most consitent and most fluid method possible. This is where you see a wide varity of differences. I will give you my chose of approach timing sequence and explain it as a simple one-two-go-and wait system.

     Think of your timing in a 4 step approach. The ball and the foot on the same side as the ball are the synchronizing gears that should mesh early in the approach. The ball should be set in time with the foot and it should follow the foot back behind the body, this allows the ball to clear the hip on its backward motion. This is where many bowlers are confused. Many bowlers do not have the ball follow the foot back behind them. They will keep the ball in front of the body too long and as the ball goes back the foot on the same side as the ball is already in its forward motion.

     Ok to keep it simple here we go: step one the ball is meshed with the toe of the foot on the same side as the ball. As the foot goes back behind the body the ball stays with it. Now the ball is behind the body with ease and little redirection. Step two is when you should quit thinking about he position of the ball in relation to the foot. Thiking about it at this time is only going to create very poor timing and inconsistency. It is time to let it happen. Go! Once the ball is behind the hip it is time to let the body gain forward momentum while we let the ball continue to swing back wards. It is not beneficial to think of the ball position relative to the feet at this time. The ball has already been meshed with the toe of the foot. Now it is time to gain momentum and let the ball swing. The next object to think about is to make sure you stay on your push off foot long enough. Do not get off it too quick. This is the time you should be thinking about waiting with the ball. Stay on the push off foot and wait on the ball. Set the slide foot under the body to achieve the right body leverage position and let the ball fall. Remember wait wait wait.

     I hope that this tip allows you to achieve a more fluid one piece timing sequence that provides a balance of leverage, tolerance and release consistency.

Good Luck and don't forget one-two-go and wait!

PS: I think it is wise to add a timing step to the four step approach system just because it helps get the body motion started. The step should be very short and the ball should remain quiet during this step.

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