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BE FLEXIBLE: Stability Is Important, But You Need To Be Flexible

By Nick Bohanan

Bowling is a sport that utilizes both strength and agility, which means you can’t forsake exercises that keep your joints flexible for exercises that focus on strength. If you focus on one over the other, pain won’t be too far behind!

The body is an alternating pattern of joints, some designed for stabilization and some designed for flexibility. In bowling, upper-back flexibility and hip flexibility go hand in hand. Your lower back is designed for stability. If you are too tight in either your hips or upper back and you can’t rotate as easily as you should, the tendency is to compensate with your lower back. The lower back is designed for bending and extension, so when you start rotating with your lower back that’s when you feel pain. Golfers run into this problem fairly often. Because there is so much torque and rotation of the spine, any tightness in their hips will cause them to shift that emphasis to their lower back.

Athletes too often focus on core strengthening exercises to combat lower back pain. No one will argue that strong core muscles are important, but in this case it’s only half the battle. The root of lower back pain is usually joint tightness either above or below it. If you don’t work on the flexibility in your hips and upper back, the pain will return to your lower back regardless of how strong your core is.

If you want to keep your lower back healthy, keep your hips and upper back as flexible as possible. Upper-back exercises are beneficial because shoulder flexibility aids in a free backswing. Hip flexibility aids your stride and finish. Both take pressure off your lower back.

Upper-Back Flexibility
Lay on the floor on your left side with your left arm straight out. Bring your right hip up and over at a 90-degree angle. This will lock your hip and lower back into place. Slowly bring your right arm back and try to touch the floor with the back of your hand. This exercise will give you a nice stretch through the chest. All of your rotation should come from the upper back. This works the area between the shoulder blade and lower back. It strengthens, but mostly increases, flexibility.

Hip Flexibility
This exercise is called a kneeling stride. Start by kneeling on your right knee. Keep your heel on the floor and push your knee out in front of your toes. This will stretch the hip flexor in the leg with the knee touching the floor, and a bit of a stretch in the glutes as well. You also should stretch your hamstrings. Lying on your back, put one heel up on a medicine ball or bowling ball and try to drive your heel into the ball. As the ball begins to move, try to keep it in place with your heel. You’ll feel a good stretch in your hamstrings. To add difficulty, swing your other leg to add hip flexibility to the exercise.

— Nick Bohanan is United States Bowling Congress Sports Performance Specialist.

Permission granted by USBC/Luby Publishing