carlin isles

How the Fastest Man in Rugby Trains

Words: Vanda Gyuris
Photography: Garth Milan

Carlin Isles shares the 5 moves that have pushed his career to the next level. 

If anyone can put rugby on the map in the U.S., it’s Carlin Isles. Insane athletic abilities (he can jump a 62-inch box), striking appearance (bleached hair and shiny earrings) and a humble, approachable demeanor easily make him a candidate for the face of the sport. 

He’s also fast as hell. Before diving head-first into rugby in 2012, Isles ran track and played football at Ashland University in Ohio. At this time, he was ranked the 36th fastest sprinter in the country. During a 2013 tryout with the NFL’s Detroit Lions, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.22 seconds—the fastest time in the world recorded that year.

Rugby sevens, a shorter version of the traditional rugby format, will play to a global audience later this summer, and Isles is poised to make his mark on the history of the sport. 

Check out five moves that Isles has perfected to push his career to the next level.


The box jump serves to mimic the mechanics that are at play when you’re running. The upward velocity of the jump (also known as plyometrics) is what helps translate into more efficient forward motion. How do you work your way up to higher box jumps? “Doing Olympic lifts. And really working on using your arms and exploding through the hips,” says Isles. 


Beyond being an exercise that could help you let loose on some pent-up aggression, the hammer focuses on strengthening the core through dynamic movement. The key here, according to Isles, is having total control over the hammer on the way up and on the way down. “Being able to be explosive from your core is very important in any sport,” says Isles. This type of exercise is also efficient for asymmetrical training— isolating certain muscle groups on one side of the body—whether it’s to over-compensate for an injury or for athletes who are in an asymmetrical sport like surfing or snowboarding. 


The key with this type of medicine ball training is “triple extension” where the explosiveness comes from the ankles, up to the knees and through the hips. With this exercise you are able to engage all three joints while also stimulating explosiveness through the core, which helps tie everything together. Reversing the move, throw the medicine ball up and then catch and release. “For this, you have to be aware of your total body. When you’re tired, if your core is weak you won’t be able to hold different positions that you need to succeed,” says Isles.


Besides a cool party trick, the one arm push-up is a static core exercise that helps bring in all the springs of the body. And there’s actually an expression for that: preventing force leakage. Exercises such as this tighten up the “suspension” of the body and improve overall efficiency of movement. Unlike weight training to achieve strength, this type of exercise is functional movement where you’re working different muscles at the same time and “shocking your body,” as Isles puts it. 


The sled push is key for building sustained power. The idea is to load you down with extra weight (65 pounds in Isles’ case) to activate the muscles and train them in the same sequence they would be engaged in without the weight. Then, when the weight is lifted, you take off like a slingshot and can maintain that momentum for a longer period of time. “It’s about getting your feet on and off the ground quickly, being elastic and engaging your core,” says Isles.

For more on Carlin Isles, check out his life story on!

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03 2016

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