How To Hold a Football When Running With 5 Points Of Pressure

Written By: Chris Haddad
Updated: February 17, 2024

Coaches often refer to the 5 points of pressure when holding and securing a football. Skill players must control the football, especially when running through the middle of the defense. Coaches will often refer to the 5 points of pressure when securing the football. What are the 5 points of pressure in football?

The 5 points of pressure for a running back are fingertips, palms, forearms, biceps, and chest. These 5 points will help ensure the ball is protected from defenders and help reduce fumbles.

Fumbles occur when one of the pressure points is typically lacking, resulting in a turnover. This article will show you more about ball security and the 5 points of contact.

5 Points Of Pressure

“Ball security is job security.” A phrase often echoed by running back coaches throughout the country.

Running backs have enough to worry about dodging defenders, focusing on their footwork, and following blocks. The last thing they’re thinking about is appropriately holding the football.

As the innovation of the spread offense and complex play-calling and signaling unfold, single setbacks are expected to run outside and inside the tackles.

The 5 points of pressure when holding a football are the fingertips, palm, forearm, bicep, and chest.

How To Hold A Football When Running

Now let’s learn what the 5 points of pressure are to implement and identify them. Here are the key pressure points when learning how to hold a football when running.

1. Fingertip Pressure

how to hold a football fingertip pressure

The fingertips should be placed at the top of the football. Teaching players to “claw” the ball (When the ball is placed between the middle and index finger – shown above) is a known technique to ensure the finger pressure is distributed evenly.

Place the football evenly between the index finger and the middle finger.

The fingertip positioning on the football is crucial when the running back takes the handoff. Fumbles are often lost due to poor finger (and palm) positioning.

Defensive players are taught to rip the ball out by grabbing the “nose” ( top) of the football and pulling back. Poor positioning of the fingertips allows the ball to slip out of control and ultimately be freed.

2. Palm/Wrist Pressure

how to hold a football palm pressure

The palm should close on the football, so weight is evenly distributed between the left and right sides of the hand. The running back must get a feel for the football, as a poor palm grip will result in sloppy transitions from quarterback to running back.

The ball must have a snug fit on the palm, as mentioned with the fingertips. Fingertip and palm strength work hand in hand by securing the football on contact.

The palm should always be upright on contact. When a defender puts their helmet on the football, it will shake loose if the running back’s palm faces the sky.

3. Forearm Pressure

How to hold a football forearm pressure when running

Forearm pressure is one of the most important pressure points. If the ball isn’t properly fit in the forearm/bicep area, the ball will get punched out.

Ensure the football is placed in the middle of the forearm, applying equal pressure to each side.

This is often the case with running backs who try to run using both arms, rather than swinging one arm and protecting the ball with the other.

4. Bicep Pressure

Secure the bottom of the football with bicep pressure. Press on it slightly to make sure the ball does not move when you’re running.

Younger players tend to have a bad habit of letting the ball get away from bicep pressure, which leaves the football out in the open. A great example of this is watching LeSean McCoy handle the football.

Here is another example:

how to run with the football bicep pressure

LeSean can get away with this because of his great ability to make defenders miss. However, if he were an “in-between the tackles” runner, we’d see a high majority of fumbles.

This is also one of the worst habits we see in younger players. They try to emulate LeSean and think it’s wonderful to have the ball swinging around as he does.

If you’re a youth coach or a father of a younger player, fix this habit immediately so it doesn’t grow old with them.

5. Chest Pressure

how to hold a football chest pressure

Pressure against the chest prevents the ball from leaking out on contact, like the forearm and bicep pressure. The ball should be pressed firmly against the chest at all times when running with the football.

This type of chest pressure is often the most difficult to teach, strictly because players have a natural running habit of swinging their arms by their side.

Pinning the ball up against the chest ensures that the ball will stay nestled in the player’s grip when a player absorbs contact.

Defensive players are often taught to put their “noses” on the football. This is why fumbles occur as the ball gets away from the chest on contact.

Holding A Football Inside Of The Box

Inside the tackle typically results in power or inside zone schemes, which require a specific skill set.

Outside, the tackle runners often have the sideline to help them, and they can see any defenders coming from the football on the inside.

These two positions matter for two reasons:

  • Contact from outside defenders such as corners, safeties, and outside linebackers
  • Contact from inside defenders like defensive linemen and inside linebackers

When we say “inside,” we’re referring to inside the tackle box. If you’re unfamiliar, you can learn more about the tackle box here.

Linebackers and defensive linemen are coming from all angles in power schemes and inside zone schemes. Running backs typically cover the ball with two hands and lower their shoulder to pick up tough yardage.

These running backs were used to contact within the first 5 yards of scrimmage, making them more conscious of securing the football.

Above is an example of how players often absorb contact through the middle of the field. Protecting the ball with two hands can be beneficial inside the box.

One thing that is lost when a player runs with two hands is speed.

Because the player’s hands cover the ball, they cannot reach full stride length. For what the running gains in ball security, they lose in speed.

Holding A Football Outside Of The Box

Open field and outside the tackle box are often where fumbles occur.

The ball typically gets away from the runner’s body as they start to sprint. As shown in one of the images below, LeSean McCoy is the greatest example.

A primarily outside/off-tackle runner, the ball is often carried away from his side and neglects the 5 points of pressure.

The 5 points of pressure are the most common teaching technique for running backs to understand how to hold a football properly.

When a running back fumbles, it’s usually caused by one of these pressure points not being secure – whether it’s being ripped out or if the opponent’s helmet knocks the ball loose.

Before we dig into the points of pressure, it is crucial that the ball consistently is toward the nearest sideline. This helps that if the ball is knocked loose, it will potentially go out of bounds.

If you’re looking to learn more about the running back position, we recommend checking out our Running Back University course. This will help you develop as a complete running back.

Keep Learning

Below are more running-back articles to help you improve.

How To Play Running Back In Football

Why Running Backs Run Up The Middle

What Is A Fullback In Football? Learn Here

What’s The Difference Between Running Backs & Wide Receivers?

Fumbling can be drastically reduced by practicing these 5 points of contact every day. Practice these drills against the air and bag and player contact.

When using the Shell Stick or players, it’s important to have an extra player standing off to the side and picking at the football. Ball carriers tend to loosen a point of contact or bring the ball away from their body when absorbing a hit, resulting in a fumble.

What are your thoughts? Do you have a different way of teaching young players how to hold the football? Do you have any key points in ensuring ball security is always on the running back’s mind?

Let’s keep learning! Our learning center is packed with information regarding techniques, schemes, and more!

If you’re looking for more in-depth breakdowns & coaching resources, visit our coaching resource page.

About the author 

Chris Haddad

Chris Haddad is the founder of vIQtory Sports & high school coach for over 12+ years. He has been featured as an authority on Hudl, Bleacher Report and countless other football-centric platforms. Chris continues to study and provide valuable content for those looking to learn more about the game of football.