There are two schools of thought regarding blocking techniques, and which style should be taught at the youth football level is an on-going debate between coaches.
Shoulder Progression Blocking
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/shoulder 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.
Developed in the late 1970s, when football loosened to allow offensive players to use their hands while 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Coaches of the Shotgun Spread, Flexbone, or other variations of option-oriented offenses are proponents of the hands blocking technique.
- 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.
Teaching the hybrid version is the best way to prepare youth football players for the next level of competition.