IFBB Figure Pro Jessie Hilgenberg Interview
Recently, I had the honor to interview Jessie about going pro and what the future holds for this amazing athlete and champion.
Bodybuilding Blogger: Jessie, congratulations on earning your IFBB pro card at the 2012 NPC USA’s. What motivated you to compete in figure competition?
Jessie Hilgenberg: Thank you so much Marco! Growing up I played a lot of team and individual sports – I put most of those on hold during college to focus on my advertising and graphic design degree so when I graduated I really wanted to find a sport that allowed me to still work on my athleticism and compete.
In 2008, I went to a local NPC bodybuilding show to watch my boyfriend (now my husband), Alex, compete as a heavyweight bodybuilder and that is where I first saw women competing in the figure division. I knew right then that I wanted to train to compete in figure!
I continued to train hard and had Alex guide me through the diet process. I knew absolutely nothing going in and had no help with posing. I gave it my best and placed second in my height class. From there, I continued researching online and learned as much as I could in order to improve each time I stepped on stage.
Where I live there is not access to any figure pros or anyone that could help me pose for figure, so I relied on YouTube videos and practiced for hours and hours. Each show I improved and studied my posing so that I could fix any weak points. Eventually, it all paid off and I earned my IFBB pro card by winning my class at the 2012 NPC USA’s.
Bodybuilding Blogger: Wow! Talk about determination! What’s your training philosophy?
Jessie Hilgenberg: I stick to traditional philosophies when it comes to lifting – heavy, compound exercises make up the bulk of my training with isolation exercises used to supplement those lifts.
I train the body parts that need to grow the most twice per week and rarely or never train body parts that are already dominant (biceps, triceps, calves, chest and abs). I love my legs to look very balanced so I separate them into 2 days so I can focus on quads/overall legs during one workout and glutes/hamstrings in the second workout.
Bodybuilding Blogger: Nice! What’s your workout regimen like?
Day 1: Shoulders
Day 2: Legs (quad focus)
Day 3: Rest/yoga
Day 4: Back/shoulders
Day 5: Legs (glutes & hamstrings focus)
Day 6: Rest/yoga
Day 7: Back
Here’s a short promo video:
Bodybuilding Blogger: Awesome video! With a busy schedule with training, coaching, photo shoots, running a successful business not to mention preparing for competitions, how do you stay on track with your nutrition on and off season? What are some of your favorite foods?
Jessie Hilgenberg: It is definitely hard to do! I’ve always operated better in chaos so somehow I make it work. If I ever find myself with free time, I usually end up filling it with something that makes me busy. It makes me nervous to not be doing anything. I’m crazy!
In order to make it all work I have to be very organized, prioritized and structured. This works out perfectly with the fitness competition lifestyle – because it takes organization, prioritization and structure to be a champion.
One of my favorite hobbies is tracking my food in the My Fitness Pal app…I told you – I’m crazy! Even in my off-season, I love knowing exactly the macronutrients that are going into my body every day.
Without the structure, I’d be a disorganized mess. Some of my favorite meals are chicken & oatmeal mixed together, coconut oil & cinnamon in my sweet potatoes, and anything that makes me feel like I’m eating an amazing pasta dish.
I love finding gems like brown rice pad Thai noodles so that I can create a fun pad Thai dish with chicken, hot peppers and peanut butter sauce (heated peanut butter with Bragg’s liquid aminos).
Dang, that sounds good right now!
Bodybuilding Blogger: Tell me about it! Great tips too thank you. What kind of cardio works best for you and how is it different during off-season compared to pre-contest?
Jessie Hilgenberg: For me, this is complicated. My upper body stays lean and gets lean very easily while my lower body takes longer to join the party.
If I spend all my time doing long sessions of steady state cardio, my upper body will get too shredded while I work at bringing in my legs and glutes. So, I focus more on shorter, more intense interval cardio during my contest prep.
I’ll do that about 3-4 times per week along with 1 or 2 steady state sessions on the stepmill or incline elliptical. There’s not much of a change in my off-season except for maybe less sessions.
My calories and carbs are much higher in my off-season to support building some more muscle where needed. I like to keep the interval cardio session in year-round because it improves my athleticism and cardiovascular health.
Bodybuilding Blogger: What has been your hardest challenge to overcome either in your personal life or competitive career?
Jessie Hilgenberg: Probably just not having anyone around me that knows more than me about what it takes to be a top figure competitor. I would have loved to have been in a bigger city with access to figure pros and/or qualified competition coaches to help me along the way.
Up until this interview, I have never had a coach so my hardest challenge to overcome was just finding a way to navigate through all of the research I did on my own and figure out what worked best for me through trial and error.
But now, looking back, I believe it is because of that that I am the athlete I am. It was and still is a long process with a lot of learning and experimenting.
Bodybuilding Blogger: You let nothing hold you back. Your journey is very inspiring and motivating! Let’s talk about coaching. As a coach and consultant what is your approach with competitors and non-competitors and what do you see them struggling with the most?
Jessie Hilgenberg: My approach as a coach is to be their mentor and friend throughout the entire process. Like I said above, it is because of my own process that I am the athlete I am today and feel like I have so much to give now.
I didn’t even mean to start coaching – I helped a friend compete in her first show a couple of years ago and it just turned into a full-time job! I just can’t help but spread my love and knowledge for the sport! I only take on a few girls at a time because I take care of my girls the exact same way I take care of my own training – a TON of detail and time.
I go to bed and wake up thinking about their programs – if I could move them into my house and be with them every moment of the process, I would! But I would probably be divorced :). I coach girls all over the country – and even a couple out of the country – and just love that they are getting the best experience possible.
I am completely obsessed with them getting on stage with their physique and posing the best they’ve ever been. I have high expectations of them and it, in turn, gives them high expectations of me. I love witnessing them fall in love with the sport and I am so proud when I see them walk out on stage feeling better and more confident than they ever have felt before!
What I see them struggle with the most? Every one of them is different. Some are stressed about their work; others have family stress, health concerns, confidence concerns, etc. I love that each one of them is unique and that as a woman and fellow fitness competitor, I can relate to them and help them through it.
Bodybuilding Blogger: Great answer and I can see why you’re so successful! So tell me what’s it like being sponsored by NLA Performance? What are your favorite NLA For Her supplements?
Jessie Hilgenberg: Being sponsored by NLA Performance is incredible! They seeked me out in August of 2012 and our relationship has developed into a great partnership since then. They value me and I stand behind their supplements. I work closely with their women’s line of supplements, NLA For Her, and use every one of the products.
My favorite is probably the pre-workout, Uplift. I’ve always kept my supplements simple and have struggled with finding a pre-workout that doesn’t have heavy stimulants.
Uplift is formulated with women in mind with only mellow, clean stimulants but also includes BCAA’s and light N.O. boosters so I still have the extra blood flow to my muscles during lifting and feel just enough of the extra energy boost and focus that help so much.
Some days I only have one scoop and other days I have two or three – either way, I never get that “cracked out” feeling I get with other pre-workouts and love it. And if you haven’t tried their whey protein powder yet – it’s AMAZING! It has a great amino profile and great, healthy, medium-chain triglyceride fats that I already include in my diet every day.
Did I mention it tastes like a chocolate éclair?? I even use it to make protein pancakes and other yummy treats. Those are just my two favorites. I use their Her Aminos for an energy boost all day and the fat burner, Shred Her, during my contest or photo shoot prep.
Bodybuilding Blogger: Now you’re really getting me hungry! If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring figure pro, what would it be?
Jessie Hilgenberg: If you’re looking to start competing, find a coach that has experience in the organization you want to compete in. A lot of people and trainers call themselves a coach, but you get a one-size-fits-all program and often they have never even competed in that organization (or at all).
Do your research! Meet and/or talk with them many times before getting started. You must have a good connection with them because you will go through a lot of different things during the process and you should be able to be open with them.
If possible, spend the extra money for a truly full-service coach that has the credentials to provide you with custom training, nutrition and all the things that come along with competing (proper posing, organization rules/regulations, posing suit selection, etc.).
Bodybuilding Blogger: Great advice! Jessie, thank you so much for sharing your time with us and for being such an inspiration.
Bodybuilding Blogger.com wants to personally thank our good friend Jessie Hilgenberg for this in depth interview. She is a passionate, dedicated, hardworking athlete and coach with a drive to help others become the best they can be. You can connect with Jessie on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, plus view her pics on our Facebook fan page Bodybuilding Worldwide.
*As a special gift for Bodybuilding Blogger.com readers get 10% off your order of NLA Supplements by using the code ‘Blogger 10’
Photography credits Pete Rezac Photography
Video credit Steve Salerno Productions
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