How To Stiff Arm a Defender In Football

Written By: Chris Haddad
Updated: February 12, 2024

The stiff arm move is one of the most common moves for a ball carrier to use in football. There’s a good chance you will see a running back or a receiver use a stiff arm when watching football. What is the stiff arm in football?

The stiff arm move is when the running back or receiver pushes the defender away by straightening their arm. The straight arm creates distance from the tackler, often resulting in a missed tackle.

In this article, we’ll show you why ball carriers will stiff arm and how to use it.

Stiff Arm In Football

Stiff arm in football

The stiff arm is one of the most common moves for the running back. It’s one of the hardest moves to defend against because the tackler needs to remove the stiff arm before they make a tackle on the ball carrier.

Like Derrick Henry, running backs in the NFL have made the stiff arm a staple in their running style.

How To Stiff Arm Another Player


How To Stiff Arm In Football 🏈

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The stiff arm is a great move to maintain separation from a tackler, but if it’s not done properly, it can result in a penalty.

The best technique to stiff-arm a defensive player is to push away the facemask or the helmet.

Often defensive players will throw their bodies at the legs or waist of a ball carrier. When players leave their feet, they aren’t generating any power from the ground. This leaves the tackler vulnerable to getting rerouted by a stiff arm.

To stiff-arm properly, the ball carrier should put their open hand on the helmet or facemask. It’s open the hand in open and not closed. If the running back grabs the facemask of the tackler, it automatically results in a penalty.

Once contact is made on the helmet or facemask, the running back should try to straighten their arm and push the tackler downward. This will help to redirect the force of the tackler into the ground.

Do not try to push the tackler away, but rather push them down to the ground.

Focus on keeping your balance while pushing the player to the ground. Once complete, keep running as fast as possible and look to stiff arm another player.

When To Not Use The Stiff Arm

Juke in football

Players who often run up the middle should try to avoid stiff arming. When you go to stiff arm another player, there’s a good chance you’re focusing on the player you are stiff arming, not the actual football itself.

This could result in a fumble if another player tries to punch the football out.

We recommend only stiff arming another player when you’re in the open field or close to the sideline. This will help protect you from other players trying to rip the ball out as you use the stiff arm.

Illegal Use Of The Stiff Arm

It’s important to understand when the stiff arm move is legal and illegal.

The stiff arm becomes illegal in two ways:

  • The running back grabs the defensive player’s facemask
  • The running back puts their hands inside the face of another player

These rules are up to the referee to call; if they see them, they will enforce them.

The point of the stiff arm is not to rip off the opposing player’s helmet but rather to make them miss so you can gain a few extra yards.

Uncover your opponent’s offensive and defensive tendencies so you can easily build a game plan.

Inside You’ll Find:

  • Strategies to pick apart defenses
  • How to identify player weaknesses
  • How to save time in your weekly breakdowns

Keep Learning

Now that you know how to stiff arm and when to properly stiff arm, we recommend checking out this course on how to play running back. It has everything you need to be a dominant running back.

If you have any questions, let us know on social media @vIQtorysports, and we’re happy to answer your questions.

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.