OK, so most of us have heard of a 4, 5, or 6 step deliveries. There are other less conventional # of steps, but for this article, I wanted to focus on the basics to help people who are trying to understand the concept.
I will say that this is not something you want to consciously think about while actually bowling. However, it is important to understand what the “correct” steps and general timing should be. You should also take the time to work with a coach or at least video tape yourself and play it back to see what’s really happening. We all think we are doing something a certain way until we see it on tape. I’m as guilty of it as anybody. But at least I recognize that I need to look at the tape to confirm my feelings.
For those advanced bowlers, remember this is not the only answer! This is a guide to help beginners and intermediate bowlers who’ve never been taught the basics to understand them. Some of you advanced bowlers might want to look at this as well, if not to change, but to understand the concepts. I know many advanced bowlers who were self-taught and thus never consciously thought about this at all.
So let’s talk about each step and what your body should be doing in relation to that step.
Especially for beginners, a 4-step delivery is the foundation!
This is what I would recommend to a beginner bowler. That is generally how many steps needed to to get a natural pushaway and release. It’s really important at this early stage to develop good timing.
Something simple to remember that is sometimes overlooked: make sure you have enough room from the foul line to complete your approach without having to chop or shorten your steps. You want to be able to account for 4 normally spaced steps and a slide. So go up to the foul line, turn around, take 4 normally spaced steps away from the foul line. Then add a half a step for the slide and turn around. That is generally where you should be standing if you take 4 normal strides on your delivery.
Simple 4 step delivery explained…
At the same time, the ball and your hand-side foot should be moving away from the body. In other words, your pushaway should be in sync with your first step. Do not overextend your arm. Your pushaway should be out or down with a slightly bent elbow. It should not be up.
So at the end of the 1st step, the ball will be out in front of your body.
The ball should start to swing downward in a rounded motion as you start taking your second step.
By the end of the 2nd step, the ball should be at the side of your leg.
The ball should continue its motion to the top of the backswing.
By the end of the 3rd step, the ball should be at the top of the backswing, ready for the downswing.
As you start your fourth step, the ball should begin it’s downswing.
By the end of the 4th step, the ball is being released just beside your ankle.
Seems simple, right?
Well, this is the traditional 4-step delivery. This ensures that you have solid fundamentals and can build on your foundation.
What about the other steps?
Generally speaking, anything more than 4 steps could be considered not part of the ball delivery. In other words, they can be used in timing yourself or spacing, but the ball should not be in motion until the 4th-to-last step. For example, if you take a 6 step approach, you will not start your pushaway until your 3rd step.
How many steps should I take?
Because of the timing complexity, I wouldn’t recommend to start out learning with a 6-step approach.
Once you move beyond beginner stage, this is a preference first, and necessity second. In other words, you may find that at first, you prefer only 4 steps to deliver your ball where as others like the stride created with 6 steps. However, sometimes bad habits are created when not fully understanding the approach and delivery timing. So out of necessity, you may change the number of steps in your delivery to fine tune your game or to get rid of bad habits inadvertently created when you decided how many steps to take.
I will say that I have personally been at 6 steps, then 5, then 4, then back to 6. It all goes as your game advances. You’ll even notice some pros who need to get in front of the ball return to deliver the ball will use 3 steps.
If there is a nugget in this, I will say it’s about cadence or tempo. Ideally, you want to take all steps in your delivery with your normal walking cadence. You should not be walking too fast or too slow. You shouldn’t vary your steps, i.e., 2 slow steps and 2 fast ones.
If you are just starting or things are getting a little too complicated, always remember to go back to basics!
Good Luck and good bowling!