by Faye Rapoport
“Bigger and stronger is becoming better for bowlers,” says Chris Barnes, commenting on the current trend toward weight training and increased muscle strength on the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) tour. Barnes, who is currently number two in the PBA world rankings, does strength work to keep his entire body in shape, and recognizes the importance of maintaining strong legs and healthy feet in his very specialized sport.
Barnes, who currently calls Dallas, Texas home, has spent the last five years building an impressive PBA career. He won his first two career titles in 1999. He led the tour in 2000 average (220.93), match play appearances (17) and championship round appearances (12), and tied Danny Wiseman for the lead in cashes (18).
Barnes was a member of TEAM USA for four years, and was named the United States Olympic Committee’s Athlete of the Year for Bowling in 1994, ’96 and ’97. He attended Wichita State University, and earned the title Collegiate Bowler of the Year in 1992.
Bowling is not Barnes’ only sport of choice. His training comes in handy when he plays basketball, baseball and golf. He also enjoys time with his wife, Lynda, their twin boys, Ryan Phillip and Troy Christopher, and their dog, ESPY.
In this recent interview with Foot.com, Barnes talks about the importance of leg conditioning, footwear and foot health for anyone involved in bowling.
Foot.com: Chris, you are talented in several sports. Why did you choose to focus on bowling as a college athlete and in your professional career?
Barnes: In my senior year of high school I went to the youth bowling national finals. At the time, I thought I was only one of the top five in Kansas, but I found out the five of us from Kansas were the best in the country. After finishing fifth there, I chose to go to a Division 1 University to bowl as opposed to a Division 2 school to play basketball or baseball. All five of us remained in the top of the college ranks during our college careers.
Foot.com: What kind of training does a pro bowler do besides actual bowling practice?
Barnes: I do a lot of core group/core muscle work – exercises for the stomach, abs, back, quads and legs. A lot of endurance and flexibility training as well. Training with weights is becoming more important. In the beginning weight training wasn’t considered important, but now bigger and stronger is becoming better for bowlers.
Foot.com: Are there specific leg and foot strengthening exercises for bowlers?
Barnes: Leg work is important. Squat exercises help and leg exercises that involve balance as opposed to leg work on machines. Leg exercises using your own weight, concentrating on your sliding leg are very important.
Foot.com: How does this kind of leg and also maintaining health feet pay off in bowling?
Barnes: Legs are the most overlooked and also ironically the most important. The health of your feet is very important as well because you use your feet for sliding in your approach. Approach is bowling term for when a bowler takes his steps and throws the ball down the lane.
Foot.com: What kind of socks and footwear do you use when you bowl, and how does your footwear choice affect your bowling?
Barnes: Socks are typically dress socks, non-cotton and not thick. I include a pair of orthotics in my shoes that I have had specially made for me. Obviously shoes are important, and mine are made by Linds and feature a steel support on the bottom (made much like a traditional dress shoe. The sole is smooth leather that is interchangeable (with Velcro) to adjust the sole to changing conditions on bowling lanes. The interchangeable soles dramatically help with the pressure on your feet with different conditions.
Foot.com: Are there particular foot injuries or conditions that you have to be careful of in your training or when you bowl?
Barnes: As of late, I’ve had more arthritic issues with my push off foot. I have an arthritic big right toe that I treat with Celebrex. The orthotics have helped as well.
Foot.com: Tell us more about your custom-made orthotics.
Barnes: They’re 3/4 length inserts that support my high arch and takes the pressure off of some of my joints. Since having them, they’ve been relatively successful – I haven’t had to resort to any additional medication (for the pain) since using them.
Foot.com: How would you compare the kind of pounding or motion that a bowler’s foot experiences to other sports?
Barnes: As a former high school basketball player, the overall pounding was much higher in basketball, but compared to golf or baseball, our feet take more pressure from the repetitive slide one takes with each throw.
Foot.com: Do you have any advice for young or up-and-coming bowlers in terms of leg or foot care?
Barnes: Foot injuries are a lot like back injuries in that they cause a lot of pain in simple tasks that you normally take for granted. Proper footwear and arch support is what I would stress the most.
Foot.com: Thank you for your time, and best of luck as you continue your career!