Offensive line play is applied physics. The body is a cylinder. Once out of the cylinder, stability, power, force, and mobility is lost. Offensive linemen have a base of support, which is the foundation for success. The body also has a center of mass, center of gravity, and a line of gravity, along with creating the force of gravity, which is the downward force of the body.
The optimal position of an offensive linemen’s base of support is to have the feet outside the shoulders creating a triangle and applying force from the ground up. The triangle consists of keeping the feet outside the shoulders, the knees inside the ankles, and the hips inside the knees.
If an offensive lineman can maintain his base of support through the block, along with his center of gravity, he can create more power, balance, and stability. The line of gravity starts from the top down through the midline of the body. The line of gravity determines the lineman’ s ability to maintain balance. If the offensive lineman loses his base of support, the line of gravity will fall outside the base of support, thus becoming unstable.
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The body’s center of gravity is concentrated below the navel. The lower the center of gravity is, the more power, balance, and stability the offensive lineman can create. However, the higher the center of gravity is, the less power, balance, and stability is created. If the center of gravity is too high, the defender can control the offensive lineman with simple pushing and pulling.
Offensive line play is an unnatural task. Think about it this way. Offensive linemen don’t naturally walk with a wide base of support; they don’t walk on the medial (insteps) part of their feet, and they don’t walk with the knees inside the ankles and so on. When teaching, it is important to take something that is complex and breaking it down into small parts, slowing it down and heightening the focus. Slowing down drills and doing them correctly with a high degree of focus is imperative. Strive for quality over quantity.
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In my opinion, the optimal position for an offensive lineman is to start from is the three-point stance. Offensive linemen need to put themselves in the best biomechanical position before the play starts. Maintaining the height of the hips and the trajectory (applied force under the defender’s force) of the hips will create vertical leverage on the defender. The three-point stance allows an offensive lineman to lower his center of gravity and center of mass. Hitting (the strike) on the rise (low plain to high plain) creates torque and lift from a three-point stance, thus allowing the offensive lineman to apply more force through the defender’s pivot point by applying vertical force.
This article was written by Ken Wilmesherr, offensive line coach, Southwestern College.
Let’s not ignore the physics of angle blocking, something too few coaches focus on (see the slides marked “How SAB Works”):
Great job Coach Wilmesherr!
I agree with you 100%.