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Using Blocks Effectively: Setting Up and Following Blocks

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Using Blocks Effectively: Setting Up and Following Blocks

Understanding and leveraging the art of blocking is essential for a successful ground game in football. Both the offensive line and the ball carrier must work in harmony to create and exploit running lanes. This article delves deep into the importance of setting up blocks, the nuances of block timing and positioning, and how to maximize the effectiveness of these strategies.

The Importance of Setting Up Blocks

Setting up blocks is a fundamental skill that every player, especially running backs, must master. It's not just about brute force; it’s about intelligent play and synchronization with your teammates. Here are some key reasons why setting up blocks is vital:

  • Maximized Yardage: Effective blocking opens up running lanes, providing opportunities for more significant yardage gains.
  • Reduced Risk of Injuries: Proper blocking technique reduces the likelihood of high-impact collisions.
  • Sustained Drives: Consistent blocking leads to sustained offensive drives and keeps the defense on the field.

Techniques for Effective Blocking

Offensive Line Blocking

Blocking Schemes

Understanding various blocking schemes is crucial. Here are a few core types:

  1. Zone Blocking: Linemen move in unison to an area, blocking anyone who enters their zone.
  2. Man Blocking: Linemen are assigned specific defenders to block.
  3. Gap Blocking: Emphasis is on blocking in designated gaps, creating lanes for the running back.

Body Positioning

Key Techniques:

  • Stance: A balanced three-point stance allows for quick movement.
  • Leverage: Staying low provides better power and control.
  • Footwork: Quick, choppy steps maintain balance and power.

Setting Up Blocks as a Ball Carrier

Balancing patience and explosiveness is critical for a running back. Here’s how to achieve it:

PatienceWait for blocks to develop. Slow your pace to let the offensive line secure their assignments.
VisionKeep your head up and eyes downfield to various oncoming defenders and potential running lanes.
DecisivenessOnce a lane opens, hit it with explosive speed. A moment’s hesitation can close the best opportunity.
Change of DirectionUse quick cuts to take advantage of over-pursuing defenders and find the best path through the created lanes.

Timing and Positioning


Perfect timing is crucial in effective blocking. It entails:

  • Reading the Play: Understand if it’s a fast-developing play like a dive or a slower one like a sweep.
  • Initial Steps: Both linemen and backs must have synchronized initial steps to maintain timing.


Positioning involves both relative and absolute placement on the field:

  • Relative Positioning: This refers to staying in sync with your blockers. For running backs, staying behind blockers until the right moment to burst through.
  • Absolute Positioning: Linemen must be in the right stance and alignment pre-snap to execute their blocks effectively.

Incorporating Blocks into Practice

To consistently achieve effective blocks in games, practice is key. Incorporate these drills into your sessions:

  1. Mirror Drill: Improves footwork and agility for linemen, mimicking real-game scenarios.
  2. Cone Drill: Helps running backs with vision and decisiveness, weaving through cones as they follow simulated blocks.
  3. One-on-One Blocking: Matches linemen against defenders, focusing on leverage and hand placement.


Mastering the art of setting up and following blocks is fundamental for any productive offensive unit. This synergy between the offensive line and running backs can turn marginal gains into explosive plays. By understanding block timing, positioning, and implementing effective practice techniques, players can elevate their game and sustain successful drives.

Remember, it’s not just about the individual talent but how well each player executes their role within the Teams strategy.

Further Reading

  1. Zone Blocking Schemes Explained
  2. The Importance of Vision for Running Backs
  3. Top Footwork Drills for Offensive Linemen

Got tips or questions? Leave them in the comments below!