The four-step rule

Imagine that you are participating in a game show and the host asks you a difficult question. And to win, you must choose your answer carefully.

So the question is: Which of the following statements is the most correct?

1 – Bowling is an incredibly simple game that anyone can easily master.

2 – Bowling is an incredibly difficult sport and no one will ever master it.

3 – Both of the above.

Yes! You’re right. Correct answer: “3

As countless commercials, bowling tutorials, tutorials on bowling center websites remind us, one of the benefits of bowling is that everyone can play bowling. Whether it’s toddlers, teens, parents, grandparents, or even great-grandparents, it doesn’t take a lot of skill to get a ball rolling down a track. And sooner or later, thanks to the miracle of side bowling, the pins will fall. )

But there are other players as well. Most of the players who have been bowling for a long time have reached a certain level of skill, such that others think we are pretty good at bowling. But we know that we will never master this sport perfectly. We know that no matter how good we are – or maybe how good others think we are – we will never hit the maximum number of pins, or we will do so in every game.

True bowling fanatics – you and me – are constantly trying new things: new throws, new aiming techniques, new wrist supports, new sliding soles … the list goes on.

But here’s the thing: sometimes, wandering through a maze of trial and error, online video tutorials, the latest and greatest balls on the market, we lose sight of the fact that all sports are based on certain principles. And losing sight of the basics means seeing your skill leave you.

So, on that fun note, let’s talk about one of the commandments of bowling is THE RULE OF FOUR STEPS

If you have read articles about the basics of bowling before, then remember the “Rule of four steps”. It’s simple: the basic style of bowling consists of four carefully executed steps that are coordinated with four carefully executed hand movements.

But … you might say that some people don’t take the four steps. You’re right. Most of the best bowlers, including the pros, take five steps, which begs the question: Why are we talking about a four-step approach?

In truth, you can take as many steps as you like. You can take five steps, you can take ten steps, you can start your approach from the parking lot of the bowling center if that suits you … it doesn’t matter. These additional steps are temporary steps and are intended to help you feel comfortable.

But the only important steps are FOUR LAST STEPS.


Small digression: we know there are bowlers who only take three steps. Trying to coordinate three steps with four upper body movements is very difficult, so if you are one, consider working with your coach to add this fourth step. You will see the result.

One more thing: we want to emphasize that the proposed bowling technique is not universal. Everything that we will tell you next is recommendations, not an order. For every “rule” of bowling, there are many very successful players who break it. And if it works for you, then it is “right” for you.


Now let’s get back to the “Rule of four steps”. This is how it looks:

First step – carrying the ball forward FROM YOURSELF (90 degrees from the vertical – carrying)

Second step – let the ball swing DOWN (180 degrees – swing down)

Third step – let the ball swing BACK (280 degrees – swing back)

Fourth step – let the ball swing FORWARD (throw forward)

(Note that the fourth step is actually a sliding step; more on that later.)

Preparing for a run

So there you are. You are on your way after finishing your pre-workout. You stand up and hold the ball comfortably in front of you at waist level. Your knees are slightly bent as you prepare for a run. You squeeze the ball easily, remembering that you are going to roll it along the path, and not throw it from top to bottom.

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Preparing for a run
The first step and bringing the ball forward.

First step and ball clearance, like first gear in a standard automatic transmission, are the most important components of your shot. If your arm and leg movements are out of sync, or simply “wrong,” your approach is likely to be uncomfortable and inconsistent, and your throw will not be the best.

What should be your first step? Fast? Slow? And what about your ball takeaway? Some trainers teach their students the importance of a very short first step, while others recommend walking naturally.

As a first step, we recommend that you take a simple walking step: JUST GO

Moving the ball forward should be as easy as your first step: push the ball straight out with your arm outstretched as if you were about to place it on a table – in other words, 90 degrees from the vertical – be careful not to extend your arm too far …

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The first step and the removal of the ball

At this point – the completion of the first step / takeaway – your work is largely finished. All you are doing now is walking, and the ball is moving by gravity and inertia. I repeat: very few muscles are involved – just enough so that the ball does not fall to the floor.

Time out: the moment between your first and second steps

As you walk down the street, you do not hesitate after each step to prepare for the next step. Rather, your walk “flows” rhythmically: one step begins earlier than the previous one ends. This is how you should play bowling: don’t hesitate between steps. Just keep walking, letting the ball swing freely and naturally as well.

Have you noticed how many beginner and intermediate bowlers sabotage their approach, hesitating to take the first step? They take a step and take out and then pause before starting the second step. The pause is short – a split second, but the results are devastating.

If you stop moving, the ball will stop swinging freely. Instead, its weight is transferred to your arm, and your beautiful free swing is hopelessly ruined. In addition, if you hesitate after your first step, you will start over – this time in the second step – and your timing will be messed up.

Second step and downward movement of the ball (fall)

The combination of the second step and swing down is pretty simple: take a step, letting the ball swing downward. Remember, since you don’t hesitate between the first and second steps, you don’t need any work to move the ball. You have enough strength to hold the ball without a stranglehold.

Using your shoulder as the pivot point, the ball moves downward, reaching its lowest point when your arm is perpendicular to the floor. At this time, you complete your second step. The knees remain bent.

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Second step and ball drop
Third step and swing back

This is probably the most difficult step because you are going forward and the ball is moving backward. This is where you need to concentrate, because the opposite movement of the torso and arm with the ball – forward and backward – can be confusing. Only practice will help you practice this movement for real.

Further, the movement becomes more complicated: it is time to “sit down”. Not literally, of course, but by the time you start your third step, you are already preparing for the fourth step, also known as sliding. This preparation also includes lowering the body somewhat, as if you were starting to sit down. How much lower? Very little.

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Third step and swing

As for your swing, how big should it be? The recommended swing is about shoulder level or even slightly higher – about 280 degrees from vertical. If your backswing is too low, you will have to use your muscles to throw the ball instead of letting gravity and inertia help you accelerate the throwing ball.

As strange as it sounds, in bowling, muscles can be your enemy.

Fourth step (slide) and swing forward

The word “step” is incorrect: you are sliding, not walking. As you move from step three to sliding, allow the ball arm to naturally swing forward. Do not pull, push, use force, or otherwise try to “help” the ball to start from the top of your swing to the vanishing point (release). Let gravity and inertia do all the work.

As the ball moves forward, you will use your feet to lower it even further, closer to the floor. How low? If your thigh is parallel to the floor, you are the master!

The moment of truth comes: the throw. Most advanced bowlers complete their slide a fraction of a second before the ball reaches their ankle, but some land on the foul line about a full second before the ball arrives. It is rare to see the bowler release the ball before the slide is complete.

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Fourth step (slide) and throw

Your thumb should come out of the ball near or just behind your ankle; fingers come out after him.

Where is your non-slip foot at this time?

When you slide, your non-slip foot should move to the opposite side of your body at the 8:00 position. This is very important: when you take your foot out of the way, you

  1. give the ball room for the hip to pass and
  2. use your leg to keep your balance.

It doesn’t matter if your foot is on the floor or balancing in the air, anything that helps you is fine.

Final thoughts

As mentioned earlier, we are mainly making recommendations, not dogmas. For this reason, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.

First, however, take the time to learn the basics so that you can practice a safe and reliable takeoff run – one, two, three, four. This is the starting point for bowling. And once you feel that comfort zone, experiment!

Some suggestions: Add an extra step to your approach, work on a different type of throw, or try a stronger swing. Maybe move your starting position closer or further from the foul line, or bend your knees a little more or less.

But the main thing is to never forget the foundation: the RULE OF FOUR STEPS.

Good luck on the tracks!

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