Posted 16 February 2012 by Interview:

Jessie Hilgenberg

What sparked your interest in training… when/how did you get started?

I don’t think my interest in training ever needed to be “sparked”…I’ve been involved in sports from a young age and have always loved being athletic. I fell in love with Tae Kwon Do and earned my 1st degree black belt when I was 13. It taught me discipline, respect, integrity and perseverance. All of which translate to my Figure training and competitions. I ran track and played basketball and softball. I took softball pretty seriously – I don’t know if I was ever that great at it but I loved playing. I was a catcher – I felt strong and loved being tough. I loved talking crap to the girls going up to bat :) I have this faint memory my senior year of high school,... the assistant track coach talking to me about her weight training and being a fitness competitor. I don’t even remember her name but that was the first I had ever heard of competitive bodybuilding. So, maybe that was my spark.
After high school, I gave up sports to pursue my education and career in graphic design and in the process took up Yoga and shortly after, Golf. Those two, I’ll stick with for life as they help so much mentally and physically.
Competing didn’t start for me until 2008 when I went to watch a friend (who is now my amazing husband, Alex) compete as a heavyweight bodybuilder. I remember sitting in the audience and seeing those figure girls for the very first time and thought, “I can totally do that!” Later that year, I started training and dieting for the 2009 NPC Nevada State show. Halfway into my training I lost my father and put all my training on hold. I came back more driven than ever and placed second in my first show in 2010.
Where I live, we don’t have access to pros and there really wasn’t anyone who could truly teach me how to pose for figure. I relied on watching YouTube videos of IFBB figure shows and did the best I could filming myself and making small improvements each show. Once I finally nailed my posing – I started winning!

How do you stay motivated?

I try to set personal records every time I’m in the gym, so seeing that proof of getting stronger than I was the last time I performed that exercise is definitely motivating for me. I’m also very competitive so studying my competition motivates me. I have great genetics, but know I have to put hard work into certain areas to get the edge. Somewhere out there, there’s another figure girl my height with big dreams training hard – so I don’t get to make an excuse not to go to the gym.

What types of cardio have worked best for you?

I mix it up A LOT. I like to preserve as much muscle as possible when cutting, so for traditional cardio I stick to low intensity training at around 65% of my heart rate max. 6 weeks out from a show you’ll find me on the stepmill doing that 6 days a week for about 50 minutes per session. I ALWAYS have a heart rate monitor on even though I’m pretty conditioned to know where my heart rate is at. I have a lot of OCD tendencies so I look at my heart rate watch every 30 seconds to see if I’m in my zone. I think it’s more of a game I play to pass the time. I hate cardio!! I also add in sprinting intervals and/or bleacher runs once per week. Intervals keep my legs big and strong and helps to tighten them up.

What does your diet consist of?

My staples are brown rice cereal with whey protein powder, sprouted bread, brown rice pasta, chicken, ground turkey, eggs, salsa, avocados and peanut butter. I don’t count calories unless I’m prepping for a show, then I get super meticulous about counting calories and macronutrients. I use the DailyBurn app on my iPhone and log in my food items as I eat them. I gauge what I can eat during the day as I log items in the app. I’ve tried creating menus for myself but I get really bored if I’m only allowed to eat what’s on a piece of paper. I like being able to create my meals depending on how I feel, and then entering them in to see where I’m at with my calories and macros. Again, probably another diversion I use to keep my mind on my diet.

How do you deal with cravings for junk foods, sweets and salty food?

Honestly, I don’t really get cravings during my show diets anymore. If I do, it’s either for more carbs or fats than my diet allows or for chocolate and wine. If there is chocolate or M&M’s ANYWHERE…I’ll find them. So I just make sure they stay very far away. I don’t care for salt and after seeing what a clean diet can do for my physique – no junk food craving could ever get me to give in. I will admit, though, that it wasn’t always this “easy.” I have some small memories of hiding in my pantry eating cupcake sprinkles and sneaking M&M’s at the grocery store. But don’t tell anyone.

What are your top 3 favorite exercises?

Conventional Deadlifts, hamstring curls and pull-ups.

How much rest do you take between sets?

I train using periodization a lot, so sometimes my rest times vary
…but most of the time about a minute.

Do you listen to music while you train?

I do. I’ve trained without headphones and it doesn’t bug me too much, but I definitely prefer having my music in my ear. My husband and I own the gym that I train at most often, so having headphones helps communicate that I’m having “me” time. It works about 75% of the time :) I listen to Pandora and right now it’s set on a dubstep station. Other than that, I like working out to my Ludacris, Wiz Khalifa, Mark Farina, Eminem, Lady Gaga, Dr. Dre, Pink or Limp Bizkit stations.

What is your training routine like?

I’ve never had a trainer or coach for figure training nor have I ever followed a specific program until recently. I know where weaknesses are with my physique and just couldn’t figure out how to improve upon them on my own. I’m now following an off-season program designed for me by Ryan Miller at Growth Stimulus Training ( In his words, “When you design your own plan, your strengths tend to get stronger and your weaknesses tend to get weaker, as you favor your strengths and ignore your weaknesses.” This was so true for me! I won’t give away all of his secrets but I basically follow an 8-day split with a 50/50 ratio of training and resting. I was drawn to his program because he’s not fancy and believes in old-school bodybuilding fundamentals with intense lifting and heavy loads. His system has been so effective for me, I’ve changed my entire outlook on training and even apply those principals to training my own clients now. There’s no other way!

My 8-day split looks something like this:

Day 1 (Pressing movements):
Incline Press
Military Press
Bench Press

Day 2 (Legs):
Olympic Bar Squats
Hack Squats
Barbell Lunges
Leg Extensions
Leg Curls

Day 3:
20 minutes Stepmill

Day 4 (Pulling movements):
Bent-over Rows
Single-Arm Dumbbell Rows
Rear Delt Flyes
Bicep Curls
Shoulder Flyes

Day 5 (Active Recovery):
I built an awesome Plyometric + Crossfit methodology routine that I do on this “day off” that consists of plyo, heavy ropes, medicine balls and sledge hammers.

Day 6 (Legs/Posterior Chain):
Conventional Deadlifts
Barbell Lunges
Romanian Deadlifts
Hamstring Curls

Day 7:
20 minutes Stepmill

Day 8:
Total rest day

My sets and reps vary each week, for example:
Week 1: 5 sets of 6
Week 2: 3 sets of 15
Week 3: 4 sets of 12
Week 4: 5 sets of 6

Do you set short and long term goals?

All day, every day! My long-term goal is to earn my IFBB pro card. But really, it’s my short-term goal, too. I’ve been competing in all national shows lately (Arnold, here I come) so, of course, my goal is to turn pro at one of these shows. I’m close! Other than that, my goal is to stay healthy and injury-free. And I plan to continue to grow my business as a Fitness Competition Coach and be the absolute best coach and role model as I can to these amazing women that join my team – I love you girls!

What are you most proud of?

I am proud of myself each time I step on stage. I may look great and do well, but I don’t think I will ever be comfortable on stage! I hate having eyes on me and still get so nervous. It’s huge accomplishment to just to be able to step on stage with all of those amazing women after training hard, eating 100% clean and making so many sacrifices along the way.

Have you had any obstacles or setbacks towards achieving your goal physique?

I don’t think so. Obstacles and setbacks in life? Yes. But nothing has stopped me yet from achieving my goal physique.

How do you measure your progress?

I never test my body fat and only get on the scale because I’m interested – not because I’m tracking my weight. If anything, I’m trying to make sure the weight doesn’t go down – grow, baby, grow!! My progress is all written down in my training journal – without that, I’d forget how far I’ve come. When it comes to getting ready for a show – it’s all about how I’m looking in the mirror.

Who are your favorite, athletes or fitness models?

Old school – Alphie Newman. New school – Erin Stern. Both schools – Monica Brant. Hands down. Three incredibly beautiful, strong and confident women. Oh, and I had a photo of Jay Cutler on my fridge in college – love him!

What supplements would you use/recommend if any?

I supplement protein with whey in the morning and pre & post workout. Casein at night before bed. Pre & post workout I also supplement BCAA’s and creatine HCI. I mix my own post-workout shake using whey, casein, pure dextrose, Optimum Nutrition’s Glyco-Maize and glutamine. And wouldn’t be caught dead without my fish oils, glucosamine, glutamine and mulit-vitamin. Taking my supplements and vitamins is a daily ritual experience

What 3 tips would you give to any woman wanting to get a feminine, CutandJacked physique like yours?

1. If you’re going to have help prepping for a show, choose one person and listen to that person only. A lot of people will want to give you their input, but the biggest mistake you can make is taking advice from too many sources. You can also go a little crazy with online research and reading, causing a serious case of analysis paralysis.

2. Don’t be scared to LIFT HEAVY! You won’t get huge and bulky – you’ll just get amazing.

3. Find a photographer you trust. A good photographer can capture your physique in ways you never thought possible. Outside of fitness modeling jobs, I’ve only allowed one photographer, Pete Rezac, to shoot me. I trust him and he takes beautiful photos of me. When a photo looks so great you ask how much of it was “Photoshopped” and he says, “none,” you know you found a good one. Get CutAndJacked and get the photos to prove it! XOXO

Jessie Hilgenberg

Year of birth: 1981 – Stubborn Taurus J, Weight: 128, Height: 5’4.5”

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