Youth Football Blocking Techniques

Shoulder Progression Blocking v. Hands Blocking

Football players running onto field
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Blocking is a critical part of the game of football. The main duty of the offensive line is to block defenders, in turn protecting the quarterback and allowing the offense to operate.

When it comes to teaching blocking techniques at the youth football level there are two separate schools of thought. There are those who believe that shoulder progression blocking should be taught, and there are those who believe that hands blocking is a superior alternative.

Which of the two differing styles should be taught at the youth football level is an on-going debate between coaches and fans of the game.

Shoulder Progression Blocking

One approach to blocking is shoulder progression blocking. This style is nearly as old as the game itself. Shoulder progression blocking involves the offensive player having his hands in close to the chest, creating an outward blocking surface from the chest and shoulder area out to the elbows. The blocker slides his head to 'fit' under the opposite arm of the defender. The head is between the defender and the ball carrier.

Hands Blocking

Hand blocking is the other approach to blocking. This style is newer, as it was developed and popularized in the late 1970s, when football loosened its rules to allow offensive players to use their hands while blocking. In this style of blocking, the blocker fires out toward the defensive player - striking him with the heels of the hands.

Following the hand strike the blocker continues to push the defender, arms extended.

Similarities

There are some similarities between the two different techniques:

  • Both techniques begin with an explosive movement of the lower body.
  • Both techniques transfer power upward via rolling the hips.
  • Both techniques enable the blocker to gain momentum prior to contact with the defensive player.

    Differences

    There are also some obvious differences between the two techniques:

    • Shoulder progression blocking allows for a greater area of contact with the defender, which can be an advantage for a lighter offensive player attempting to block a heavier defender.
    • Hands blocking generally allows quicker contact with the defensive player, as the blocker is firing his hands away from the body when striking the defender.

    Which to Teach?

    • Coaches using more traditional offenses such as the Fullhouse, Single Wing, or Wing-T are generally more supportive of the shoulder progression blocking method, as is it the original, long-standing method.
    • Coaches of the Shotgun Spread, Flexbone, or other variations of option-oriented offenses are often proponents of the hands blocking technique, as it allows for quicker contact at the line.
    • A third group of coaches, no matter the offensive system, teach a hybrid blocking scheme which borrows from both blocking types (A team employing zone blocking on the line of scrimmage, yet during the Iso play the fullback uses a shoulder block, e.g.)
    • Proper pass blocking requires use of a blocker's hands.

    Conclusion

    Teaching the hybrid version is the best way to prepare youth football players for the next level of competition.

    This way, the players will have a basic understanding of aspects from each approach.