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How To Push In Soccer? Use Your Shoulder, Body and Upper Arm

How To Push In Soccer? Use Your Shoulder, Body and Upper Arm

Many soccer enthusiasts who can be regarded as conservatives of the sport still argue that soccer is a non-contact sport. For them, aggressive tackles and bodily contact are sanctioned as fouls and sometimes penalized.

On the contrary, soccer does allow a certain degree of contact. The Laws of the Game empowers referees to call whatever is deemed fouls at their discretion. So in playing by the rules of the game, there are legal ways to push and tackle without necessarily getting called out for it.

Since, by the nature of the game, winning is determined by scoring more goals than the opponent, this can be more easily achieved by ensuring the opponent has less of the ball. An excellent way to do this is by learning how to protect the ball with your body effectively.

Learning technical skills is good but knowing how to use your body to protect the ball is an extra advantage. Defenders are not the only players solely tasked with this responsibility. All players on the field should know how to keep possession by constantly protecting the ball.

This article gives a step-by-step guide on how to push in soccer effectively. It also exposes what a push action is all about.

Adama Traore use his shoulder to shield the ball

How to Push in Soccer? Here are the Correct Ways

Pushing in soccer can either be a deliberate or unintentional move. What is certain is the function for which it is done; to fend off opposing players from gaining possession of the ball.

You don’t want to be the player that gives the ball away every time. You’re better off playing for the other team because you’re automatically a disadvantage to your team.

Pushing can be done with the body, hand, or arms. Going by the prevailing rules of the game, a referee is more than likely to call a foul if the pushing is done recklessly and carelessly. It is also considered a foul if it is a deliberate attempt to harm the opponent through excessive force.

To avoid situations like this, here are three main methods for pushing in soccer without attracting a foul.

Peter Crough try to fight for the ball on the pitch

1. Using your Shoulder

This is commonly referred to as shoulder-to-shoulder. Before we look at a step-by-step approach to this method, let’s understand why this method is effective and will not be considered a foul.

It’s an already established fact that the use of hands is not allowed in soccer. However, part of the grey areas in this rule, as outlined in Law 12: Fouls and Misconducts, states that the shoulder region does not count as hand contact if the ball falls on it.

Unlike the arms/hands, the shoulder cannot be placed unnaturally because of its fixed position on the body. With that aside, this is how to perform a shoulder-to-shoulder push in soccer.

a soccer player pushing his opponent with his shoulder

Step 1: Keep your arms close to your body

The idea is to take advantage of the leniency afforded to the use of shoulders in soccer. Keeping your arms in their natural position close to the body makes it easy for the referee not to mistake this move for a careless or reckless tackle.

If you are charging towards an opponent, it may be slightly difficult to keep the arms close to the body since you need to swing to make better runs. However, do your best to return the arm to its natural position before proceeding to the next step.

Step 2: Slightly bend the knees

This helps to lower your center of gravity. Also, standing erect and tall makes it easy to get knocked over when the shoulders come together.

A lower center of gravity provides you with better balance and stability. Assume this stance to firmly plant your body and feet on the ground before making your move.

Step 3: Lean sideways in the direction of the opponent

With your body firmly balanced, lean sideways with your shoulders leading towards the opponent. Preferably, target their shoulder for the charge. Chances are they’re already bracing themselves for a hit or are charging towards you with their shoulder.

Ensure not to lean far away from your already assumed body posture. This will offset your overall body balance and cause you to lose the duel.

Step 4: Make the push

All of the culminating steps end right here with a powerful push. With your shoulders aligned, gently shove off the player to regain or maintain possession of the ball.

To reiterate, pushing in soccer should be done to either maintain or regain possession of the ball. Always remember that one of the unwritten rules of the game is to play the ball and not the player.

The power of the push should be dependent on the weight and size of the opponent. Although shoulder-to-shoulder push is legal, some players are naturally gifted in feints. Since referees judge these types of tackles by discretion, it’s imperative always to have the advantage.

2. Using your Body

Van Dijk use his shoulder to push the opponent

This is another legal technique to push in soccer. However, unlike the shoulder-to-shoulder, this has a higher probability of being judged a foul if not properly done.

The term “body” refers to all parts, excluding the head, shoulder (already discussed), and legs. Therefore, any pushing attempt with the legs falls right into the category of careless, reckless, and deliberate.

Every defensive tackle employs this method. How else would players block an opponent from stealing the ball if they don’t create a shield with the body?

Before beginning with the steps, it’s vital to note that body size also matters to achieve success. Use this method on opponent players with around the same weight and size or lower than you.

a soccer player pushing his opponent with his body

Step 1: Get a good balance

Your posture has to allow for the greatest possible stability and balance. You can also slightly bend the knee if the situation allows for it.

Step 2: Lean towards the player

Still, without compromising your body’s balance, lean slightly towards the opponent’s body. To allow for fairness, aim at the opponent’s general body to avoid being called out for a foul.

Step 3: Make the push

This method is more effective when you and the opposing player are in motion. To push a stationary player with your body can come off as a reckless tackle to the referee.

It’s best to anticipate a hit from the opponent. As he or she begins to charge towards you, use this method to block off his charge by pushing them off.

3. Using your Upper Arm

Virgil Van Dijk is marking Harry Kane

It’s important to clarify that any possible push with the hand can only be achieved with the upper arm. Any other part of the hand is considered reckless and deliberate.

To clarify, the upper arm is the part of the hand above the elbow. The use of elbows as a defensive or attacking move is prohibited in soccer.

Soccer players are still not allowed to touch the ball with the upper arm. Except the ball is struck towards the arm while in its natural position close to the body, the referee calls out a foul.

a soccer player pushing his opponent with his upper arm

Step 1: Maintain a good balance

As earlier discussed, this is important to increase your stability.

Step 2: Slightly raise the upper arm

This is the tricky part. Slightly push your upper arm away from the body but not so much that it makes your elbows stick out. This makes your body shield a bit bigger than it should be.

Step 3: Keep the ball away from the opposite feet

With the upper arm (the one closest to the opponent) slightly extended out, move and keep the ball on your opposite feet. For instance, if you intend to push with your left upper arm, the ball should be held away from your body with your right foot.

This makes it harder for the opponent to reach the ball and take it while preparing for the push.

Step 4: Gently push with the upper arm

You have to be smart when applying power for the push. Push the opponent on his upper arm or shoulder to keep this method fair.

This should make him or her stagger off while you run away with the ball.

Is Pushing with your Hands allowed in Soccer?

soccer player pushing his opponent with his hand

No, it is not. More often than not, you’ll get penalized for pushing with your hands. There’s very little way to defend a hand push as not being reckless or deliberate.

A good example happened in one of the 2021/2022 Premier League fixtures between Chelsea and Tottenham. Harry Kane’s game opener was disallowed because his hand looked like he pushed Thiago Silva.

Pushing an opponent with your hands contravenes the game’s laws that hinge on maintaining sportsmanship and the spirit of the game. To effectively push with the hands, the hands would have to come out from the body in an unnatural position.

Depending on the severity of the push, such actions can result in a foul, caution card, or a send-off. So unless you’re going in for a throw-in to restart play, it’s best to keep your hands to yourself!


Whether we agree to it or not, pushing is an action that is allowed in soccer if done properly. As long as it doesn’t harm, pose a threat, or give an unfair advantage in the game, soccer referees will turn a blind eye to it.

Going by the Laws of the Game justification for fouls and misconducts, the action must be seen and judged as the careless, reckless, or intentional use of excessive force. Depending on the referee’s prerogative, a push that does not fall into any of this may be allowed.

The article discusses three effective methods to push in soccer without resulting in a foul. The shoulder-to-shoulder is the most effective method to push the opponent in soccer successfully. However, the steps highlighted for all methods should be adequately followed.

Hands are prohibited for use in soccer, except in the goalkeeping position. The same applies when pushing. Using the hands to push is a reckless display and will most likely be sanctioned by the referee.