A stiff arm in football refers to the action of a ball carrier sticking his arm out at a defender in order to push him away. In most cases, a stiff arm will come into contact with the defending player’s helmet.
This manoeuvre is most often used by runningbacks though any position may attempt a stiff arm so long as they are carrying the ball.
Are Stiff Arms Legal In Football?
Yes stiff arms are totally legal in football though there are some stipulations. A stiff arm can be performed by any player so long as they are carrying the ball at the time.
There are several different penalties that can be awarded for hitting someone in the facemask when you do not have the ball. For example, hitting a quarterback in the head as a pass rusher is a fifteen yard personal foul.
If the quarterback throws an interception, that defender can run towards the quarterback and stiff-arm him via his helmet. This play is entirely legal because the player who committed the stiff arm was carrying the ball.
Additionally, when committing a stiff arm you are not able to grab the helmet of your opponent. Making contact with the helmet is entirely legal but the second you wrap your hand around it, it will be called a face mask penalty.
How To Do It
To perform a stiff arm you need to understand how to use the stiff arm itself. This move is only used when looking to distance yourself from another player. Unlike trucking a player a stiff arm is not a move you use to go through someone.
In most cases, a stiff arm is used to maintain distance as you go past someone. To complete a stiff arm you must extend your non-ball-carrying arm towards your opponent.
As your arm extends it should come into contact with the opposing player. The main areas you want to aim for with a stiff arm are the helmet the top of the shoulder or the chest plate.
Additionally, you will only be able to stiff-arm a player if they tackle you high. If a defender decides to tackle you low pulling off a stiff arm is going to be very difficult.
How To Stop A Stiff Arm
There are several different ways a defender can go about defeating a stiff arm from an opposing player.
First off, the easiest and most reliable way to avoid stiff arms is to tackle low. When taking a ball carrier low it is almost impossible for him to contact you with a stiff arm. If the stiff arm is the opposing player’s go-to move then this will be a very effective manoeuvre.
Another way in which to beat the stiff arm is to lock onto the player’s arm itself. In most cases, stiff arms take some time to complete and often allow other defenders to catch up.
If you grab onto the stiff-arming players extended arm, you may be able to bring him down. If not you have likely slowed him for enough time to allow your teammates to tackle him.