How Heavy or Light Can a Bowling Ball Be?

how heavy or light can a bowling ball be

When it comes to choosing the correct weight bowling ball to use you can be stuck with too much choice. Often the brightly colored display of differently weighted balls on offer in any bowling alley can be too much to choose from. How do you know which one to pick?

The typical range for bowling balls has the lightest at only 6 pounds, whilst the heaviest is 16 pounds.

Here we will tell you everything that you need to know about choosing the correct weight of bowling ball and the pros and cons of the different weights.

What Is the Heaviest and Lightest Bowling Ball Allowed?

In any average bowling alley there a large weight range available. Typically there is a 10-pound gap between the lightest bowling ball on offer and the heaviest. Commonly the lightest bowling available will weigh a mere 6 pounds, whereas the heaviest that can be found will weigh 16 pounds. 

You will not find any bowling balls that weigh more than this as the upper limit is in fact regulated by the US Bowling Congress. However, this only applied to drilled bowling balls. If you are after a ball havier than this then you will need to turn to an undrilled bowling ball. Yet this will only be different by a few ounces. 

Despite this vast weight difference, a study found that typically the average US male will opt for a bowling ball that weighs 14 pounds as this will feel the most comfortable and natural to them.

On the other hand, the women are not too far behind, most commonly opting for a 12-pound bowling ball when they visit the alley at least once a week. If there are less regular visitors of the bowling alley then this range increases to anywhere between 10 to 14 pounds for the average US female bowler.

How Do I Know if My Bowling Ball Is Too Heavy or Too Light?

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The most important thing about choosing the right bowling ball for you is knowing which weight is best for you. Chances are that if you find a bowling ball that is below 6 pounds or above 16 pounds then it is not regulated. Instead, try to find the right weight for you inside of this range.

As a general rule of thumb, you should look for a bowling ball that is roughly equal to ten percent of your body weight. So, for example, if you weigh 120 pounds then opt for a 12-pound ball. Obviously, you should test this out to see exactly how comfortable it is for you. If you find this is still too heavy, go down to a 10-pound ball. 

If you are a 200-pound male then you are not going to be able to get a 20-pound bowling ball, instead choose the upper limit of a 16-pound bowling ball.

The exact weight that you want your bowling ball to be will also depend on your physical state and how regularly you bowl. If you are in bad shape then consider going lighter and advancing toward a ball roughly equal to 10 percent of your body weight.

Similarly, if you only want to go bowling every now and then as a bit of fun rather than as a regular sport then you should not choose a ball that is too heavy. You can go as light as you want, this will allow you to avoid hurting yourself while still having a lot of fun playing the game.

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Is a Heavier or Lighter Bowling Ball Better?

Whether a heavier or a lighter bowling ball will be better depends entirely on you. Ask yourself a few questions: is the ball equal to ten percent of what I weigh? Can I lift it without hurting myself? Am I good enough shape for this ball or should I choose a lighter one to be safe? Answering these questions will help you to assess which ball is right for you.

In general, however, the heavier the ball is the better it will be able to hit the pins. This is because it will have more force. However, you should still be able to throw the ball at a decent speed.

Just because the ball is heavy does not mean that you can put enough force on it to give it enough speed to be effective. In fact, if you go too slow then your ball may just stop halfway down the lane.

You should be able to throw your bowling ball of choice a minimum of five turns without hurting yourself or getting tired or sore. If this is not the case then the ball is too heavy for you and you will benefit from choosing a lighter bowling ball. The best weight for a bowling ball is the weight that you can throw fast and consistently.

Another advantage of choosing the heaviest ball that you can physically, and comfortably, throw is that it will not be as easily deflected when it (hopefully) hits the pins. It will simply continue along its path of trajectory, meaning that if you have good aim then you are more likely to knock over more pins.

However, if you cannot put enough power into your throw then the extra weight will not be worth it.

What Pound Ball Do Pro Bowlers Use?

For a very long time the general rule was: the heavier the ball the better. So, most pro bowlers would opt for a 16-pound bowling ball without a second thought. However, this has changed in more recent years. Now, approximately 70 percent of professional bowlers use a 15-pound bowling ball.

A few will go a little lower in weight to a 14-pound bowling ball, whilst the remaining bowlers still opt for the heaviest – the 16-pound ball.

For professional female bowlers, this is just ever so slightly lower with the average throwing a 14-pound bowling ball. Again, a few go either side of this weight, using 13 or 15-pound bowling balls, but the majority use the 14-pound ball. 

Final Thoughts

When it comes to having fun in a bowling alley you can easily be swept up in all of the pretty colored balls on offer. But remember, just because they are pretty does not mean that they are effective. In fact, the single most important thing is that you chose the bowling ball that is the right weight for you.

As a rule, start with a ball that is roughly equal to 10 percent of your own body weight and see how this feels. You can then judge off of throwing this ball whether or not it is right for you. If you do not go bowling regularly, or you are not physically fit, then considering trying one weight down. This will reduce the risk of any injuries such as wrist sprain, or the chances that you will drop the ball. 

Try to use the heaviest ball that you comfortably can. This will allow you the best chance of getting a good score as it will give you the most momentum behind your ball as well as reduced deflection. As long as you can throw this weight of bowling ball at least 5 times without any discomfort then you are good to go!

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