How Many Steps is Your Delivery?

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…
Step 1
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.

Step 2
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.

Step 3
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.

Step 4
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!

2 thoughts on “How Many Steps is Your Delivery?”

  1. Coach T,

    Some additional thoughts about how many steps we should take:

    There are a lot of opinions but in the end I believe we should take whatever amount makes us feel comfortable and whatever helps us repeat our shots. Our delivery (swing & cadence) needs to help us keep our armswing relaxed, particularly the backswing. If we can do this, it will be much easier to repeat our shots, hit what we are shooting for, get a read on our ball reaction, and adjust as necessary.

    I would like to emphasize the need to video tape ourselves from time to time to see what we are doing. Over time we can acquire habits that are likely to hurt our games. Consider it a bowling checkup. It’s just something we need to do.

    Lastly, try not to talk about this subject during league play. I once bowled with a guy who was a 220 shooter and commented that another bowler had a three step approach. He said he took three steps too. The rest of my teammates told him no way. For the next 6 or 7 frames he was a mess, because he found himself counting his steps rather than paying attention to what he was doing. He shot around 180 (he had been bowling well in the previous game, around 240) and we lost the second game by about 20 pins. He just had a hard time believing us and needed to confirm to himself the number of steps he took. Fortunately, he bounced back in the last game but it’s kind of funny that a guy of his caliber had no idea how many steps he took.

    I hope this helps.

  2. I was talking about this on another site with Tamer. I can take anywhere from 3 all the way up to 7 steps depending on what I’m trying to do. There are general rules for timeing but there is no set point on when to start the ball in motion.

    I worked with a guy that took 4 steps but started his pushaway on his second step. This is not the general rule for timing but it’s what he had to do to stay in rythem. When he first came to me his backswing was really high causing his timing to be late which in turn caused a pulled downswing. He liked taking a slow 4 step approach, but had a fast armswing. He would start the pushaway on the first step and get to the top too quick so he had to take faster steps at the end then pull the ball from the top. Instead of changing his swing speed I went with an easier fix, his pushaway. I got him to start the pushaway on the second step, and with his slow feet mixed with a faster armswing it came out perfect. It also lowered the backswing allowing him to swing free from the top.

    Normally I use 4 and 5 steps. When bowling on longer/heavier patterns I’ll stand closer using a 4 step. This will allow me to take my normal steps and reduce my ball speed. When shooting spares I’ll usally take 5, but not always. On short/drier patterns I’ll take 5 steps to get more speed without changing timing. I’m not a very big person, at 5’8 I’m only about 135-140 so I needed to modify my approach to get more speed. I start the ball in motion a tad sooner then the normal timing, and this gives my a higher backswing without any pull coming back because I have more time to get to the top. This is something I’m starting to not do anymore because I’m getting better at controlling my speed using 5 steps. Plus I was in a tournement and needed a strike on my first ball in the 10th to move on and wiffed the headpin. We were on the Shark which has the out of bounds outside 10 board, and I been using a 4 step for a strikeball all day with good results. I just came off a spare in the 9th which I used a 5 step to make and got up in the 10th and took a 5 step by not paying attition causing me to throw it through my breakpoint leaving my a washout.
    After that I started practicing on speed control with the 5 step.

    I do not recomend switching between steps unless you have solid mechanics because it can lead to serious problems if your not used to one or the other. It takes a lot of practice and you can still make mistakes like I did if you lose focus for even a second.

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