How To Backpedal In Football

Written By: Chris Haddad
Updated: February 12, 2024

The ability to change direction in football is one of the key qualities of an excellent defensive player. Linebackers and defensive backs need to be able to move Omni-directional at a moment’s notice. Backpedaling and transitioning forward play a large part in this process.

The shoulders must be over the toes to backpedal in football to ensure all weight is forward. From here, slowly move backward while maintaining the chest-over-shoulder posture.

This article will show you how to backpedal in football and the best way to transition forward to get more interceptions & pass breakups.

Backpedaling In Football

Football players, like most athletes, need to be able to move in all directions. Defensive backs, however, are mainly tasked with covering speedy X, Y, and Z receivers, which can be stressful.

While backpedaling may seem elementary, there are common flaws in the average high school football player that will lead to transition mistakes.

These mistakes are the difference between a ball being completed and an intercepted ball.

Let’s first start with the stance of a defensive back.

Stance

defensive back stance in football

First, get a good athletic stance with the feet staggered. If the feet are square, what will often happen in the weight will transition onto the heels as the defensive back begins the backpedal.

When the feet are staggered, we want to get into an athletic stance where the chest and chin are over the toes. This is a crucial part of the stance, as the chest and chin are major components of transitioning forward.

The hands should be resting right along the hip area. Tense hands often will result in intense transitions. As a defensive back, you want to be as fluent and relaxed as possible.

Start

As the play begins and the receiver starts to move, start your backpedal.

When the play starts, it’s essential to lead with your front foot as your first step (as your feet are staggered). This will cause an even distribution in stride length between your feet.

If you step with your back foot, this may cause uneven stride length, and your heels may distribute weight unevenly.

If your defensive backs or safeties use a kick slide technique, leading with the back foot is necessary. The big point of emphasis when starting a backpedal is to keep the shoulders and chin over the toes at all times.

The minute the shoulders and the chin line directly over your hips are when you have trouble transitioning forward on time.

The speed of your backpedal is important. As a defensive back, you should never reach top speed when backpedaling. Remember, 80% of routes will break before 7 yards, so there’s a good chance that we’ll be breaking toward the line of scrimmage during our backpedal.

You should be a little faster than half speed to change direction effectively.

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Transition

Now that you’ve started to move backward, you’ll need to train your body to transition at any moment’s notice. Sometimes it may be in the first step of your backpedal; sometimes, it may be in the fifth step.

The two major points of emphasis when transitioning:

  • Make sure your chest and chin are over your toes. This will help you bring momentum forward as you transition.
  • Use a maximum of 2-3 steps in the transition. Ideally, if you can use a plant step and a directional step to break toward a wide receiver, this will help you break faster toward the football.
  • Avoid long, delayed breaks by anchoring your back foot. Keep the hips square to break at any angle as fast as possible

If the stance and the start are not coached up properly, it will be hard for the backpedal transition to happen effectively.

Keep Learning

If you want to learn more about backpedaling, we recommend you check out our Defensive Back University course. It has everything you need to improve as a DB!

Below are more articles to help you learn about defensive backs.

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How To Play Press Coverage

What Does A Safety Do In Football? Learn Here

What Is A DB In American Football? Explained

These are the fundamentals and principles every defensive back should build off of. Backpedaling in football can be mastered through repetition.

It’s important to practice stance and start every day in practice. It’s a technique that needs to be meticulously corrected daily.

If you want to learn more about coaching defensive backs, we recommend that you look at our learning center to find more articles like this.

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.

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