4 Step Bowling Approach

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I’m going to write about the most basic of approaches, The 4 step bowling approach. This is the easiest to learn, teach, and fix when needed. It’s a no-nonsense approach that gets the ball off your hand and on the lane using a few simple techniques. Each of the 4 steps requires the upper and lower body to work together, no steps are wasted simply walking. Here’s how to get it going.

The 4 step bowling approach should be natural steps, not running, jogging, giant or choppy steps. The fourth step will include a bit of a slide at the end making it slightly longer than the other three. The goal at ball release is to be as close to the line without touching it as possible.

How do you determine your starting position in bowling?

Many bowlers leave themselves a few extra inches buffer just in case. So, to establish a starting point walk the lane in reverse. Go to the foul line, turn around, and take four natural steps. Then add an extra half step to account for the fourth step slide and a few extra inches. Take a mental note of that location with the dots on the lane. That is where you will place your toes to start your approach.

4 Step Bowling Approach

Start with the toes of both feet on your new spot and your feet a couple of inches apart. Point your feet in the direction of your target. (Establishing a target is a different tip.) Stand generally upright, trying not to lean forward, with your knees relaxed and not locked straight. Hold the ball in front of you with both hands, near your chest, supporting most of its weight with your non-bowling hand to help you relax the bowling hand and reduce fatigue during the game. Now you’re ready to take the first step.

FIRST STEP (Push-away)

The first step is with the same side as you roll the ball with i.e., righties start with the right foot and lefties start with the left foot. As you begin the step, push the ball out in front of you away from your body. You are trying to create a pendulum at your side with the ball so push it as straight out as possible. Imagine you are placing the ball on a shelf that is about chest high. The heel of the first step foot should touch as you reach the length of your push away.

SECOND STEP (Back-swing)

Here’s where the pendulum comes in. As you start the second step immediately after the first, release your non-bowling hand and allow the ball to fall naturally into a pendulum-like swing at your side as you maintain a grip only tight enough to keep from dropping it. You will find that your non-bowling arm will now be used to maintain balance, sort of as tightrope walkers do. Try to stay upright through the back-swing, it’s the easiest way to keep your balance. As the heel of the second steps touches you should be at the bottom of the back-swing.

THIRD STEP (Back-swing continued)

As the ball moves through the rest of the back-swing, your foot will move through the third step. If you’ve done things properly to this point, the ball should move naturally though the pendulum to the top of the back-swing. You should not need to help the back-swing in any way. This is one of the most common errors that bowlers make in the effort to roll the ball faster. The problem is, the more you force yourself out of a natural back-swing and into an exaggerated one, you are very likely to twist your body, pulling your shoulders out of alignment and throwing your shot off. So keep yourself straight and let gravity decide where the top of your back-swing is. Your third-step heel should touch down as the ball hits the top of the back-swing.

FOURTH STEP (Slide and release)

As the ball comes forward with the fourth step you will bend the knee of the fourth step foot to help bring the ball closer to the lane for release. This is a step with a slide, it allows you to be in the best position to release/roll the ball; as opposed to tossing it underhand onto the lane (this would be bad). Do your best to keep your upper body upright as you bend into your slide. Your ball should be moving forward through the swing as you step and slide and should leave your hand as your slide foot comes to a stop. Then let your arm continue through the rest of the swing without the ball to complete your follow-through.

Professional bowler Chris Barnes did a short video demonstrating the four-step approach. I recommend watching it. That way you can get a great visual from a pro.


This, of course, is just a guideline. My recommendations for those starting this wonderful past time: practice at home, without a ball, in front of a mirror to see what it looks like as you go through each of the steps. It will help you to get the coordination down before trying something new with a large, heavy object in your hand.

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