Functional Approach to Bowling

Functional Approach to Bowling
Nick Bohanan, United States Bowling Congress Sports Performance Specialist

 

Bowling like any other form of physical activity requires a coordinated movement pattern.  To optimize performance and limit the risk of injuries, athletes must reduce the inefficiencies in their technique.  This is why they work with coaches to address timing issues and improve our arm swing and leverage.  In order to fully achieve a high level of performance, the body must be balanced in terms of stability and mobility.

 

Stability and mobility are both created through the joints and muscles within the body. Strong muscles provide additional stability while flexible muscles provide additional mobility.  The amount of stability and mobility required depends upon the joint.  The progression of the joints starting with the feet moving up to the hands create an alternating pattern of stable and mobile joints. This pattern allows for fluid movement, balance, and energy transfer from the ground through our legs and torso to our arms.  The following table breaks down the joints to their functional roles.

Foot

Stable

Ankle

Mobile

Knee

Stable

Hip

Mobile

Lumbar Spine (Low Back)

Stable

Thoracic Spine (Upper Back)

Mobile

Scapulothoracic (Shoulder Blade Area)

Stable

Glenohumeral (Shoulder)

Mobile

Elbow

Stable

Wrist

Mobile

Hand

Stable

 

 

 This pattern does not mean that the stable joints should not have mobility.  What it is saying is that the stable joints require more stability and the mobile joints require more mobility.  For example, the knee joint has several degrees of movement and is required to bend in order to propel the body forward in walking, running, and bowling but also requires a large amount of stability in order to maintain balance. 

 

When joints do not perform their required tasks, other joints must compensate in order to perform a specific movement.  Compensation can limit performance potential and increase the risk of injury.  Faulting of joints typically begin with a lack of mobility.  A joint problem will ultimately manifest itself with pain at the joint directly above or below it.

 

The best example of this is pain in the low back.  As bodies become older and less active, there is typically a loss flexibility and movement in the hips and upper back, which in return requires a compensation movement from the low back during rotation.  When the low back moves, it no longer provides the stabilizing properties it is designed to perform.  This can result in muscle strains and vertebral disk issues which produce pain.

 

To limit the risk of injury and to increase the potential for performance we must maintain a level of balance between stability and mobility.  This ultimately requires participation in a regular training program designed around maintaining this balance.  Far too often concentration is focused on increasing strength and flexibility is forgotten about.  Stability and mobility can be worked on simultaneously by doing exercises with less weight and concentrating more on performing an exercise through its full range of motion. 

 

 Bowling is an activity that creates asymmetries in the body.  Repetitive stress is produced whether a one handed or two handed approach is utilized.  The force of the ball during the swing causes the muscles of the dominate or ball side of body to become over developed.  This creates unbalanced muscles that produce unfriendly games of tug of war within the body which forces joints to compensate their functional roles. Extra time must be taken to strengthen the opposite body parts to recreate equilibrium.

 

The use of a proper pre-bowling warm-up can improve movement efficiency.  A warm-up should be dynamic and aerobic. Light jogging or jumping jacks should be performed to increase the heart rate and breathing rate.  This will increase blood and oxygen flow to the muscles.  At this point the warm-up should turn to dynamic exercises consisting of walking toe touches, squats, lunges, side bends, torso twists, and arm circles.

 

In conclusion, coaches can assist a bowler to achieve a high level of performance but an athlete cannot reach their full potential if they have restricted movement patterns.  Participating in a proper training program that focuses on the pattern of alternating stable and mobile joints will have a positive impact on bowling performance.   

 

 References:

Boyle, Michael. “A Joint-by-Joint Approach to Training.” MichaelBoyle.biz http://www.michaelboyle.biz.

 

Cook, G., L. Burton, et al. (Unkown). Functional Movement Screen Professional Training  Manual, Functional Movement Systems.

 

 

Rose, Greg, Dr. Quick Screen for Rotational Athletes. The National Strength and Conditioning

Association. Webinar. 2009.