What Is a Stiff Arm in Football and When to Use?

Stiff arm in football: One of the most brutal maneuvers a running back can use on defense is the stiff arm in American football. Getting a clean hand under the face mask with a good straight arm frequently causes the player to fall to his back. Check out this post to find more information about stiff arms in football.

What is a stiff arm in football?

Running backs in all divisions use the stiff arm, often known as the straight arm. Fast running backs can use this strategy to gain the upper hand when eluding defenders.

It keeps players who insist on tackling up high and do sloppy arm tackles away from your body. It literally appears as though you are hitting the player in the head with the powerful straight arm. Since most of these are aggressive and legal, this is also a rare occurrence. We want to be efficient with our strong arms and avoid rattling any bones in our hands in order to avoid any penalties.

Advantages and disadvantages of the stiff arm in football


Gain further ground: A stiff arm can be quite effective in gaining additional ground. It can be quite important, whether it’s just a couple or enough for a first down.

Maintains a safe distance from opponents: As long as the stiff-arm technique is effective, the defender will always be at least an arm’s length away from you.


The threat of harm: A straight arm has a higher chance of hyperextending or twisting when it hits something.

Increasing the likelihood that the ball will be lost if the ball carrier is too focused on the straight arm. They may lose the ball through carelessness or by having another player poke the ball free from them.

Is it legal in football?

Yes. They frequently appear to be a hands-to-the-face penalty, but it is rarely enforced. The ball carrier would need to hold his hand on the player’s helmet or face mask and pull or twist it in order for it to be called.

Ball carriers typically have more leeway to use their other hand whatever they choose because they only have one accessible hand while everyone else has two.

How to behave stiff arming properly?

A player who successfully or fails to pull a defender away from you using their open hand to engage their helmet, face mask, or shoulder pad is said to have used a lawful stiff-arm.

Important information: Only the person carrying the football can use it. A stiff arm by any other player on the field will always result in a penalty.

When not to use a stiff arm?

Let’s first discover when the straight arm should NOT be used:

  • Running in between the tackles
  • In the middle of the field

We advise you to avoid using the stiff arm in any zone, power, or diving play that results in running between the tackles. Too many players are coming from all sides for one to cause any concern.

Additionally, if you are putting all of your efforts into stiff-arming a player, it implies that you are not concerned about the ball, which is the most crucial component. Consider CJ Anderson’s example from the Super Bowl.

Similar to the last tip, trying to stiff-arm while breaking into an open field in the middle of the field is a formula for failure. A second player will almost probably approach from behind you to strip the football if you stiff-arm one player.

The best straight arms in the NFL history

Here are the best top five in football history:

  • 2014’s Monday Night Football featured Chicago Bears tight end Chris Conte being tackled by Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson.
  • In a 1998 game against the New York Jets, running back Garrison Hearst of the San Francisco 49ers scored on a long touchdown run. He delivered a crushing straight arm on his route to the score.
  • Fans of the Carolina Panthers still recall Steve Smith’s stiff arm from the game against the Baltimore Ravens in 2015, though.
  • In a 2009 game, Adrian Peterson used a powerful, straight arm to take Cleveland Brown’s defense to the task.
  • Marshawn Lynch holds the #1 place thanks to his explosive playoff run against the Saints in 2011. Lynch’s run not only included the greatest in history, but it may have also been the best run in NFL history period. 

Both power and speed runners can benefit greatly from the stiff-arm technique. Use it mostly when running alongside the field and away from traffic. Keep in mind that maintaining possession of the ball is crucial, and a few extra yards are not worth losing the ball. Visit the website Footballterms to explore more about the NFL and many important rules.

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