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Top Tips - February 2012 - Bowling Ball Weight

I’ve reached the age (54) where it has become difficult to keep the speed up with a 16-lb. ball. For the best carry, am I better off staying with a 16-pounder and throwing it slower, or going with a lighter ball and throwing it faster?

Mike Imes Answers...

For those who wish to maintain a strong game and eliminate the possibility of injury, decreasing ball weight can be a good suggestion. It is especially recommended for middle-aged bowlers who use heavier balls and are watching their averages drop gradually.

We don’t want anyone to consider giving up the sport because they aren’t enjoying themselves. Besides, the goal is to roll the ball comfortably and knock down a lot of pins. Bowlers are still using 16-lb equipment. However, technology has provided bowlers at all levels with more options. Eliminating the 16-lb ball may be a good start to improve your game. But be aware that throwing the ball harder can put a strain on your arm and shoulder, which could cause discomfort. On the other hand, slowing down a heavier ball will make it tougher to roll the ball through your target with any velocity.

Current bowling technology allows bowlers to select lighter equipment, choose from various coverstocks and weight blocks, and not lose pin carry. That’s why my center counsels many middle-aged and senior bowlers to consider moving to lower-weight balls. While you may have had a long history of success with a 16-pounder in the past, it’s time to consider ways to make minor adjustments as you get older and physical conditions change. USBC coaches and/or local pro shop operators can assist you. They can evaluate your game and are prepared to help you decide on a weight and ball that will fit your needs.

Kendra Gaines Answers...

As we age, our bodies become less flexible and can also lose strength. As a result, I almost always recommend 15-lb equipment over a 16 lb ball because the technology of today’s bowling balls can make up for some of the weight difference. That said, lowering your ball weight may not necessarily increase your ball speed, but it may help with release consistency and accuracy.

Ball speed comes from your tempo, or the speed of your approach. If you have a slower tempo, your ball speed will most likely be slower. Speed consistency is more important than the amount of speed generated. If you have trouble maintaining a good ball speed, you have a few options. The best way to increase that speed would be to pick up the pace of your approach. Do this by increasing your foot tempo. Just make sure your swing tempo matches the increase of your foot speed.

Another option would be to embrace the slower speed. The late Earl Anthony did. So does PBA star Pete Weber. They enjoyed success because of speed consistency. Once you have a speed you can maintain consistently, you can then make lateral adjustments or equipment adjustments to increase your carry.

Also remember to keep up with your physical fitness. Strength training and cardiovascular exercise will help keep your body performing at its best. If you are still in need of help, contact one of BJI’s Top 100 coaches to help you with your game.

Michael Imes is a USBC Silver level coach who is Youth Director at St. Clair Bowl in Fairview Heights, Ill., and provides bowling lessons for a wide variety of clientele. Contact him at, or email him at

Kendra Gaines, former Junior Team USA Ass’t. Coach from Orlando, Fla., is USBC Silver certified. She is a two-time PWBA champion and five-time Team USA member. Contact her at

Posted with permission from Luby Publishing Inc.