Bowling Form

Introduction to Bowling Form

Bowling Style, or form, refers to the way a bowler delivers the bowling ball. Delivery can be smooth and slow or rough and fast, as well as any variation in between. Styles are generally classified into four categories: Stroking, Cranking, Tweening, and Spinning. Learning about these styles, what they are and how they are used, can be beneficial to a player who is still developing their game. By the end of this article you should have a solid understanding of each of these categories and some of the other variations that make up bowling style.

Bowling Objectively

There are many styles that can be used in a conventional bowling form. However, all of the styles seek to achieve a strike. A strike in bowling is a specific method of knocking down all of the pins on the first ball and utilizes the 1-3 pocket (for more information on pockets, see our article on aiming.) A legal roll of the bowling ball will enter the 1-3 pocket, and continues to roll through the 5 and 9 pins. This type of roll is used in all of the bowling styles.

Note that this is not the only way to achieve a strike and the goal of every bowler is to achieve a strike using the method that generates the highest strike percentage for them. The various forms use different wrist, hand, and body positions to do different things such as getting strikes, picking up spares, or in some cases just to show off.


The most basic form is called stroking, and bowlers who fall into this category are called “strokers.” The most used style in professional bowling leagues, stroking is considered the classic form. A stroker releases the bowling ball smoothly and generally produces less than 300 rpm, or 17 mph.

To ‘stroke’:

  1. Keep your shoulders square to the foul line
  2. Keep your backswing low (almost parallel to the floor)

This reduces the ball’s potential energy but gives a smoother release and better accuracy. This type of release also reduces a bowler’s ability to ‘hook the ball’ but “modern reactive resin bowling balls now allow strokers to hit the 1-3 pocket at a relatively high angle” (Wiki). For more information on these reactive resin balls, visit the article on Types of Balls. The major benefit of this style is that it has the highest rate of repeatable and accurate shots.


Another bowling form is “cranking” and those who use this style are often called “crankers.”  The style uses strength and rotation on the ball to ‘hook’ into the pins and strike. This style can produce speeds over 370 rpm, or 19mph, and relies heavily on brute force. In fact, a bowler can have poor aim and still bowl strikes if they can put enough energy into the ball. Bowlers use higher back swings that sometimes come up level with the bowler’s chin to give the ball extra speed. Max revs are achieved by quickly going from cupped to un-cupped and “snapping the wrist” at the release.  But be warned, it can also lead to ‘late’ timing (see Footwork for more information about Late and Early timing issues) which can immediately reduce all the energy you put into the ball on the backswing. If you find yourself being pulled forward at the foul line by the ball, you’ll need to practice your footwork in addition to your form.

Cranking can be difficult and takes a lot of practice. One problem that often arises with this bowling style is pain in the wrist and forearm. Some Crankers, who do not have a strong enough wrist to cradle the ball, will feel the need to ‘muscle’ the ball with their upper body. They may even bend their elbow, which puts more stress on the upper arm. This can also be caused by focusing too much on the snapping motion itself, which can reduce revs because it slows the release down. To do it properly, the act of un-cupping should happen in a split second and is almost imperceptible when done by skilled, professional bowlers. This can be helped by practicing one-step drills and holding the weight with your free hand before the swing reaches its full extension.

The backswing of a cranker roll progresses as follows:

  1. Wrist cupped and cocked with fingers towards the inside of the ball (the left side.)
  2. On the down swing, when the ball is about even with your hip allow the wrist to start rotating to the right.
  3. Let your arm accelerate through the shot.
  4. Let go by un-cupping. Your hand should go quickly from underneath the ball to the top of the ball.

One advantage not present in Stroking is that Cranking allows bowlers to utilize “hook.” Depending on the bowling ball, lane condition (see Oil Patterns,) and the individual bowler’s ability, the ball may exhibit either a rounded hook pattern that takes place down the majority of the lane, or a late hook that occurs just a few feet away from the pins. The late hook is particularly fun to watch, which is why many spectators prefer to watch Crankers rather than Strokers.

One disadvantage to the style is that bowlers are more prone to leave pins on the boards and be unable to pick up the spare. Note: there have been many successful, professional “Crankers” who were known for being able to pick up spares. Again, practice is key.

For some more information on Cranking visit:


Tweening is considered the in-between of Stroking and Cranking. Bowlers that deliver the ball in a manner falling somewhere in between these other styles, have rev rates between 300 and 370 rpm, or 17 to 19 mph. This modified delivery uses a higher backswing than normally employed by a Stroker and a less powerful wrist position than a Cranker. If you find that your wrist is easily tired or sore from trying the Cranking Style, you may consider using this less wrist heavy style. You’ll also find that adjusting your backswing and wrist action to follow a more Stroke-like approach can help you recover some of the accuracy lost by cranking.


Also known as helicopter or UFO, Spinning is a style that is used mainly in Asia and is considered a “trick shot” rather than a reliable form. Regardless of what you call it, “a spinner releases a ball such that it is rotating along a horizontal axis (the x-axis) in a counter clockwise motion (right-hander) as it moves down the lane” (Wiki). It literally spins like helicopter blades. Spinning is a popular style in Asia because lanes are oiled from the foul line all the way to the pin rack. As you will learn from Oil Patterns, oil prevents the ball from finding fiction. In order to hook, the ball needs opposing friction. In spinning, very little of the ball’s surface touches the lane so it is not affected by the lack of friction.

The objective in spinning is to depend more on pin deflection, or in other words a domino effect. The 1-pin hits the 2-4-7, the 3-pin hits the 5-8 the 6-pin hits the 9, and the ball eventually hits the 10-pin alone.

For the purposes of improving your bowling, we do not recommend using this style as it puts additional stress on the wrist, elbow, and shoulder. The chances of injury are greater with this style of bowling. In addition, if you are bowling in a traditionally oiled alley where the lane has a dry element, you’ll find that spinning loses all advantage.


Other bowling forms

Thumb Delivery

No-thumb delivery

This method involves inserting only two fingers into the bowling ball, leaving the thumb on the outside. This can help a bowler create greater hook but can lead bowlers to ‘muscle’ the ball down the lane. Pros to this style are that it can allow for straighter shots, which in turn gives higher accuracy when done consistently. A Con to this style is that because you are removing one of the supporting elements (your thumb,) you won’t be able to bowl with a heavier ball and using a lighter ball can reduce the pin deflection and power in the final release.

Half-thumb delivery

This delivery is very similar to No-thumb as it removes one of the principle supports to carry the weight of the ball during the approach and backswing. However, using partial thumb contact allows the bowler to still maintain some control over spin in the final release.


Two-Handed Approach

The two handed approach is as it sounds. The dominant hand holds the ball with the appropriate fingers in the grips and the other hand rests on top of the ball. This gives the bowler greater support of the weight of the ball and for increased power in the dominant hand. The open hand leaves the ball the same time as the dominant one. This can also aid bowlers in creating spin on the bowling ball, but requires the bowler to rotate their shoulders more during the approach.

This technique can also being used with the No-thumb delivery.

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