Inside Christian Petracca's Hardcore Training Routine

Inside Christian Petracca’s Hardcore Approach To Holistic Fitness

For Melbourne Demons star Christian Petracca, the pursuit of victory starts in the off-season and continues in virtually every spare moment between games. That said, the midfielder strives for something higher than superlative match fitness – to be fit and healthy for life.

Before the thrill of the season’s first bounce, there is the torturous slog of the pre-season. Right? Well, not all athletes see it that way. Take, for one, Christian Petracca, who happens to revel in the grind.

It’s 7am and Petracca has arrived at the Demons’ high-performance training facility at Gosch’s Paddock in central Melbourne. He prepares for the punishment ahead with a massage and physiotherapy treatment. Once he’s feeling switched on, he dives into an hour of plyometrics and light cardio to activate his muscles before a 10-12km track run that’s focused on building both endurance and explosive speed. The running complete, he climbs into an ice bath to kick-start recovery, followed by a session of mobility work and stretching.

His day doesn’t end there. The midfielder spends the afternoon rotating between hour-long education sessions (studying game tapes and working on strategy), strength training in the gym and additional physiotherapy. In the preseason, this is what five days a week look like for Petracca, who’s not one to ease himself back into training after the offseason. “I’ve been doing it for years,” he says. “I’m pretty tough, so I like to get straight back into it.”

The 27-year-old says he uses the offseason to “reset” and to get his body where it needs to be to hit the ground running. This time around, that meant jetting off to Europe for some R&R before a high-intensity Red Bull training camp, where intense aerobic work took his endurance to a new level.

“I love my mindfulness. I love my meditation. And I love my visualisation. They’re things I’ve added to my routine over the years.

Petracca has the same goal with his mental health. “To be honest, I feel like I do more from a mental point of view than physical,” he says. “I love my mindfulness. I love my meditation. And I love my visualisation. They’re things I’ve added to my routine over the years.”

If you want to reach the top, you need to train harder than anyone else. For Petracca, that’s the mindset that has propelled him to stardom and AFL premiership glory. Overcoming sky-high expectations and a series of cruel injuries early in his career, Petracca’s hardcore training routine and commitment to recovery have lifted him to the apex of his sport.

The second pick in the 2014 AFL draft, Petracca felt the weight of the world on his shoulders as pundits and fans alike proclaimed him as the game’s Next Big Thing. Nearly 10 years on, he hasn’t disappointed one iota. In 2021, Petracca helped the Demons end their 57-year premiership drought, collecting the Norm Smith Medal in the process. And on the back of a holistic approach to his health, he’s cemented his place as one of the best.

NO “I” In Team

(Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images via AFL Photos)

To speak with Petracca is to receive a lesson in humility. The guy always puts his team first – personal accomplishments are an afterthought. His number-one goal this year, he tells Men’s Health, is to help take the Demons all the way to another flag. “Individual accolades are nice, but it’s a team sport,” Petracca responds when I ask him if he’s eyeing this year’s Brownlow Medal. “For me, the ultimate goal each year is to do what’s best for my team.”

For someone who battled through his fair share of injuries early in his career, Petracca won’t let any fear of misadventure stop him from giving everything at training. Taking care of his body has become a critical aspect of his routine. And besides, Petracca see injuries as a learning opportunity.

“I did my ACL when I was 18 – that was just a freak accident,” he says. “I feel like it’s really helped me become a lot more professional and understanding of my body.” That torn ACL and then a broken toe delayed his AFL debut for more than a year. Things have gone smoother since, with Petracca staying close to injury-free throughout his career. Since making his debut, the Demons star has missed just a single game – and that was the result of an infection he sustained from a dog bite.

Recipe For Success

@christianpetracca_5 Chicken satay noodle salad #fyp #chicken #easyrecipe ♬ Greatness – Quavo

Petracca’s built something of a cult following on social media. His culinary skills, combined with a knack for turning those skills into viral videos, have helped him rack up more than 120,000 followers on TikTok. But when I call him a “chef”, he’s quick to demur. “The last thing I’d call myself  is a chef,” he says, adding that cooking is not something he does in pursuit of fame – it’s just something he’s always had a passion for and he wants to share his nutritious meals in a no-nonsense way. “At the end of day,” he says, “I just show that I’m a human being. I think that’s why those videos are so popular.”

Always keen to broaden his fitness and find new ways to boost his wellbeing, Petracca is a big advocate of yoga and Pilates. “I’ve got a reformer at home and a little yoga studio close to my house that I try to go to once a week”, he says. “I use it as an opportunity to work on my mobility and loosen up my muscles. I find the whole process therapeutic.”

There aren’t many athletes on the planet with Petracca’s immense understanding of fitness. From mindful mental-health protection and peaceful meditation to punishing workouts and rejuvenating recovery sessions, Petracca knows what works for him. Seeing as an all-out mentality is the only way he knows to approach his health, you can expect Petracca to continue kicking goals, taking marks and winning accolades for years to come.

Petracca’s Three Pillars of Recovery

(Photo by Darrian Traynor/AFL Photos)

With a supreme understanding of what makes his body tick and a holistic fitness regimen to match, it’s easy to see how Christian Petracca has risen to the top. But as he says, you can’t work as hard as you need to without a focus on recovery. “My three pillars are nutrition, hydration and sleep. As long as I address those each week, I feel like I have a good chance of playing well”

Nutrition

If his social-media exploits don’t clue you in, allow Petracca to explain his love of cooking and nutrition. “It’s something I’ve always been passionate about. Growing up in an Italian family, cooking is part of our lifestyle and our culture. I used to be really specific about what I ate before games. But now, as long as I get my carbs and protein and eat well… that’s what’s most important.”

Hydration

Before, during and after his high-intensity sweat sessions, Petracca takes in a lot of water. He’s similarly focused on rehydration around the use of his home sauna. With sauna heat having been shown to enhance circulation and speed up muscle repair in the wake of vigorous exercise.

Sleep

Yeah, yeah – you’ve heard it all before. Everyone knows sleep is important. But Petracca hasn’t just heard the advice around optimal sleep hygiene – he’s acted on it. His pursuit of solid sack time isn’t just about feeling well-rested. It’s about being disciplined and sticking to a routine that will help him be at his best as often as possible.

By Cayle Reid

Cayle Reid is a fan of everything sports and fitness. He spends his free time at the gym, on his surfboard or staying up late watching sports in incompatible time zones.

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