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Football Training: Running Back Drills and Exercises



The best running backs have to be strong, fast, agile and instinctive – using these running back drills and exercises will give the tools to move downfield against any defense.

With the ball in the running back’s hands so often, it’s essential that he be a workhorse that pushes his team to the endzone. Turnovers turn solid efforts into failures, but they can be avoided with proper preparation.

Up your game in the backfield and prevent mistakes by working on these essential running back skills.

Ball Security

No matter how talented you are, if you’re fumble prone, you’ll never be an every-down running back. The first step towards holding onto the football is proper grip, meaning always maintaining at least three points of contact between your body and the ball. Point one is fingers, point two is forearm and point three is upper chest. Coaches have been saying “high and tight” for decades, and they say it because it is a running back training tip that works. Remember to keep the football in the hand closest to the sideline so it bounces out of bounds if it’s dislodged. To add a fourth point of contact, use your other hand to anticipate a blow from an opponent. To work on ball security, practice this running back drill to simulate gameday contact.

Smooth Handoff Exchange

Now that you’re adept at holding onto the ball, it’s time to ensure the smooth handoff needed to get it to you. Through practice and developing chemistry with your quarterback, you’ll be able to make the ball an extension of your own body. Repetition builds muscle memory, which will stay strong in the face of adversity. Make sure you have the basics down: inside arm up, outside arm down. Create a spacious pocket for the ball and absorb it into your arms as you storm upfield. Practice at game speed so your connection with your QB becomes second nature. It’ll pay off when it matters most.

Blocking and Picking Up the Blitz

Scoring touchdowns will get you on the highlight reel, but you won’t get be in the game at all if you can’t block. Blocking is as important to a RB as running. Picking up a rusher who slipped through the O-line can keep the play alive, and in some cases, keep your QB alive. The worst QB hits too often arrive when an RB misses a blocking opportunity. Knowing your blocking responsibility begins with recognizing the defensive scheme and picking up your man. You can learn the fundamentals on your own or with a few friends. Practice proper technique on a sled or get your friends involved to work on picking up the blitz. Remember to pick up attacking defensive players on the inside first, and always take them on as close to the line of scrimmage as you can.

Yards After Contact

As a running back, you should never stop moving your feet. In football, every chain link counts. The play’s not over when your opponent wraps you up. It’s over when you drive him back and pound him into the turf. Even finesse-focused running backs have to work on lower-body strength, getting low and delivering a blow to a charging defender. Various running back drills have been drawn up to help RBs work on constant forward momentum. The gauntlet is one piece of machinery that helps with this (and ball security). A friend with a pad in his hands, however, can be equally helpful if utilized correctly. Remember to keep your legs moving. You never know when you might break through for a long one.


Shifty scat backs aren’t the only RBs who are expected to make their opponents miss. Even power backs need to change direction to turn defenders into awkward arm tacklers. Agility is a general skill that can be developed through various position agnostic football exercises, including ladder drills, cone shuffling drills and resistance training with bungies or parachutes. A successful agility training program is a varied training program. Teach your body to make various cuts, jukes and move on to more advanced ankle breakers like stop-and-go’s and spins. Remember, however, that the most direct route to scoring will always be a straight line to the endzone.

Cover Photo Credit: NashvilleCorps /

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