Just like any sport, it's important for not only your health, but also your performance, to warm up before engaging in physical activity. Yes, there are people out there who will claim bowling isn't a sport, but whether or not you should warm up prior to bowling is not part of that debate. Consider: you're going to hurl a heavy sphere, most likely with one arm, down a 60-foot lane over and over for an extended period of time. Bowling can (and will) put immense strain on your body, so you need to get your body ready.
Get the Blood Flowing
Before you attempt to stretch your muscles, it's a good idea to get your blood pumping through them. Have you seen baseball players prior to a game running sprints in the outfield, then stretching? Hockey players skating around during warmups, then stretching? These athletes have also been warming up prior to taking the field or the ice. The same goes for bowling. Get your blood moving and warm up your muscles prior to stretching.
- Walk around the bowling alley. Arrive early and walk up and down the length of the bowling alley. A brisk walk is best. Do a few high steps (lift your leg parallel to the floor) as you walk to begin stretching out your legs.
- Run sprints. Bowling doesn't require nearly as much cardio training as hockey, for example, but running sprints will get the blood moving. This won't be for everyone. You should do this outside the bowling alley, and you should wear street shoes, not bowling shoes.
- Jog. Take a couple laps around the parking lot or bowling alley itself. A steady jog will get you ready to stretch.
Stretch Your Bowling Muscles
Warm muscles are easier to stretch. Once you've walked, jogged or run for a few minutes, work on stretching your muscles, particularly those you'll be using while you bowl.
- Arm swings. Stretch out your rotator cuffs. Yes, cuffs. Even though you'll be bowling with one arm, it's a good idea to stretch both, as it helps with balance. Swing your arms forward six to 10 times, then backward six to 10 times. This should loosen your shoulder joints enough for throwing the first ball of the night.
- Leg stretches. A lot of your bowling power and balance comes from your legs, so don't neglect them. There are a lot of good leg stretches (from Paige Waehner, About.com's exercise guide) available. Work on stretching out your calves, hamstrings and groin.
- Side bends. Stand straight up, then bend to the side as far as you can. Keep your pelvis in place. Do this six to 10 times on one side, then switch to the other and repeat.
Take Your Practice Shots
By now, you're ready to begin practice. Do not go all out on your first (or even second or third) shot. The first time you step up, take an easy backswing and let the ball go down the lane. Don't worry about hitting any pins or finding your mark or trying to read the lanes yet. An easy release tells your body it's almost time to take some bowling abuse.
Everyone's body is different, so the number of practice shots you need to spend getting used to the feel of the ball varies, but usually one to five shots is enough. You'll know when you're ready to start throwing at full speed. If you go at maximum speed on your first practice shot, you could throw out your shoulder, elbow or any other part of your arm. Ease into it.
This warm-up routine should take ten minutes at the most. Once complete, your body will be ready to go, your risk of injury will be drastically lower than if you hadn't warmed up at all, and you'll probably perform better, too. Warm up, then go bowl some strikes.