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Top Fitness Model & NIFMA Champion Jill McConkey Talks With T&T

Top Fitness Model & NIFMA Champion Jill McConkey Talks With T&T

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    Age: 29
    Comp Weight: 125lbs
    Off Season Weight: 135lbs
    Height: 5ft 9”
    Nationality: British


How Did You Get Started In Health And Fitness?

I discovered the gym when I was 17 and enjoyed taking part in different classes throughout university and my early 20s, focusing mainly on using cardio equipment and the weights machines to keep fit and healthy. However, it was only a couple of years ago that I completely transformed my body. In March 2011 I returned home from a year in Australia carrying a little extra holiday weight so I launched straight back into my usual routine of cardio, cardio, cardio! Not surprisingly due to all the high impact activity I injured my ankle, not wanting to stop training altogether I decided to give weights another go – guided by a few guys in the gym I started lifting weights x3-4 times a week and increased my protein intake.  After 4-6 weeks I noticed massive changes – I developed lines that I had never seen before and was tighter and firmer than ever – I’ve never looked back!


What Is Your Best Accomplishment So Far? Proudest Moment?

My greatest accomplishment so far would have to be winning my first local fitness competition in October 2011. A few months after starting to weight lift I was even beginning to see abs coming through – something I’ve always wanted but never thought I could achieve! I heard a lot of people talking about this new fitness competition that was taking place in Belfast later in the year, so I thought I’d challenge myself by entering into something I had never thought I would do before. I decided the competition would give me a final goal to work towards and be the place where I could proudly show off the last few months’ hard work. To my delight and surprise I won NIFMA’s Miss Fitness Northern Ireland 2011. The proudest moment for me is when I took to the stage last year to compete in the 2011 MuscleTalk Championships in Bedford, England – standing up on stage in the best shape of my life and not looking out of place beside the girls who went on to compete at the British National Championships later in the year.

What Is It Like Competing? How Does It Feel To Win?

Competing is like going on a journey, it’s an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish. Firstly choosing to compete in a show is a great way to focus your training, it gives you a short term goal to really work towards – personally when I’m in competition prep mode it ensures I give my all in every workout and it keeps my diet in check on a weekly basis. Competing is exciting especially all the preparation that comes with it – deciding on a show, choosing your suit, booking your flight/hotel, jewellery, tan, hair! It’s also exciting to see the body you’ve worked so hard for during your off-season slowly be revealed to yourself each week – I love it when my abs start to come through again and I can see the definition in my back! However it can also be nerve-wracking, time-consuming, expensive and socially isolating at times! But to me it’s all worth it in the end, especially if you win – to get up on that stage and know you’ve tried your best at something and brought your best package is a great sense of achievement and pride. There’s no better feeling in the world!


What Is Your Workout Routine?

Below is a sample of my training routine during my off season (during contest prep I would train twice a day, usually splitting my cardio and weights sessions (cardio in the am and weights later in the day). Exercises, sets, reps also change on a weekly basis (some weeks I would lift heavier and decrease my reps; other weeks I would use lighter weights with higher reps and really burn the muscle out). I’m a huge fan of supersets, trisets, drop sets etc and I would use these training systems in almost every workout.

    Monday: Legs (Quads/Calves Focus)

  • A1. Leg Extension x5 sets (20,17, 15,12,10 – increase the weight as the reps decrease)
  • B1. Narrow Smyth machine squats x4 sets of 10 reps
  • B2. Back or Front squat x4 sets of 10 reps
  • C1. Leg Press (narrow and shoulder width stance) x6 sets alternating between the two stances, 20,17,15,12,10,10 – increasing the weight as the reps decrease)
  • D1. Seated calf raise x4 reps of 15 reps
  • D2. Standing calf raise  x4 reps of 15 reps
  • D3. Squat to calf raise (holding light DBs) x4 reps of 10 reps

    Tuesday: Chest & Triceps

  • A1. Decline/Flat bench press x4 sets of 10-12 reps
  • B1. Incline DB press x3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • B2. Press ups x3 sets of 10 reps
  • C1. Cable/DB Flys x3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • D1.  Lying tricep extension x3 sets of 10 reps (Ez-bar)
  • D2. Close grip press x3 sets of 10 reps (Ez-bar)
  • E1. Tricep press down x3 sets of 10-12 reps (Rope or bar)
  • E2. Dips between two benches (with a 10kg plate on knees) to failure

    Wednesday: Shoulders & Abs

    I start with my rear delt as this one of my areas for improvement, also I don’t tend to isolate my front delt as I’m recently recovering from a shoulder injury and I find my anterior delt is developed enough from all of the other upper body training I do.

  • A1. Rear delt (reverse pec deck machine) x4 sets of 10
  • A2. Rear delt DB flys x4 sets of 10
  • B1. DB Arnold press x4 sets of 10
  • C1. Lying side lateral raise x4 sets of 15
  • D1. Ab stand – leg raises x3 sets of 10
  • D2. Knee ups x3 sets of 10
  • E1. Decline sit ups holding a 5 kg plate x3 sets of 10
  • E2. Decline Russian twist x3 sets of 10

    Thursday: Legs (Hamstrings/Glutes Focus)

  • A1. Goblet Squat (standing on two benches with a KB) x3 sets of 20 reps
  • A2. Glute bride (10kg plate on pelvis) x3 sets of 20 reps
  • A3. Kickbacks x3 sets of 20 reps
  • B1. Straightleg deadlift x4 sets of 10-12
  • B2. Good mornings x4 sets of 10-12
  • C1. Leg Press (wide stance – 20,17,15,12,10 reps increase the weight as the reps decrease)
  • Stairmaster (20mins)
  • D1. Unilateral bodyweight squat (squat down so that your bum touches a bench)

    Friday: Back & Biceps

  • A1. Deadlift x4 sets of 12
  • B1. Assisted pull up x4 sets of 10
  • B2. Straight arm pulldown x4 sets of 10
  • C1. Barbell Bent over row (underhand grip) x4 sets of 12
  • C2. DB single arm row (drop set) x4 sets of 8-15
  • D1. High row (using rope) x4 sets of 12
  • E1. EZ bar bicep curl x4 sets of 12-15
  • E2. Hammer curl x4 sets of 8-10

    Saturday/Sunday: Rest

I minimise cardio during my off season and would only do about 30 mins x3 a week, however I add cardio into my weekly routine when I need to during competition prep. I would start with 20-30 mins per day and increase it each week until a few weeks before I show when I could be doing 60-90 mins per day in addition to weights! I mainly focus on high intensity cardio sessions, but I really enjoy a weekly spin class or body attack class to mix things up!


Top 3 Favourite Exercises And Why?

Straight-Leg Deadlift – I love that I have mastered almost perfect form on this exercise and I can  also lift quite heavy, I really feel it stretch my hamstrings and I’ve definitely noticed an increase in the size of my hamstrings by incorporating the SL Deadlift into my weekly routine.

Tricep Ez-Bar Superset – Incline lying tricep extension followed by a close grip pressup. This combo really exhausts my triceps, I love using the Ez-bar for training arms – it’s much easier for me to grip and keep really strict form.

Straight Arm Lat Pulldown – I love this exercise for isolating the lats, make sure your arms are straight and you visualise your lats moving as you pull the bar downwards, really squeezing with each rep. I’m always left with sore DOMS the next day!

Favourite Form Of Cardio?

HIIT – I love challenging myself with interval training, setting myself small goals to achieve that extra sprint or go a little longer each week. I get bored too easily with steady state cardio in the gym – there’s nothing like finishing off a really tough weights session with a 15-20 mins blast of high intensity cardio that leaves you gasping for air! I still love the feeling of leaving the gym absolutely punctured and dripping in sweat! Although in saying that I do like to get out for a 7-10km run about once a week in the spring/summer, I run along a Greenway where there’s no traffic and I find it really clears my head after a tough week of work.


What Is Your Diet Like?

My philosophy around nutrition is that ‘It’s a lifestyle, not a diet!’, and I’ve actually named my weight loss programme just that.  I believe the key to successful and long-lasting weight loss is for people to change their eating habits permanently. Making sensible food choices, reading food labels and being educated on proper nutrition

I try and follow a ‘clean diet’ all the time, obviously when I’m on my 12 weeks competition prep I’m much stricter than when I’m ‘off’ season. I would also have a weekly ‘treat’ meal on a weekly basis during my ‘off ‘season.  I make sure I follow a diet consisting of high protein, complex carbs and healthy fats.

  • Meal 1: 3 organic whole eggs mixed in a bowl with a teaspoon of butter

  • Meal 2: Post work-out shake (1-2 scoops of whey isolate & ½ -1 scoop of Vitargo)
  • Meal 3: Prawn & Avocado salad with plum tomatoes, spinach & rocket leaves, mixed pulses ( Soya Beans, Chick-peas, Pinto Beans, Black Eye Beans, Red Kidney Beans, Aduki Beans)
  • Meal 4: Chicken & greens (green beans & broccoli)
  • Meal 5: Salmon stir fry
  • Meal 6: A handful of Brazil nuts  or mackerel fillet and cottage cheese



What Food Would We Find In Your Fridge?

Mostly protein sources and vegetables! I eat chicken, turkey, eggs, salmon and prawns on a weekly basis, sometime the odd fillet steak. I often buy pre-packaged stir-fry bowls for convenience and a lot of different vegetables as I love roasting veg in the oven. Also sweet potatoes, Fage 0% Total Greek yogurt and low fat cottage cheese.

Any Staple Healthy Meals That You Always Eat? What Is Your Favourite Cheat Meal?

Chicken/Turkey baked in the oven with different spices, sweet potato fries and green beans!

Roasted veg – courgette, green beans, aubergine, red/yellow peppers, mushrooms, celery, butternut squash, tomatoes etc drizzled in omega 3 oil. I would normally make up a massive tray on a Sunday and this would do me for a few meals (lunch or dinner) at the start of the week with different protein sources.

Stir-fries – Another great meal which can be made in bulk – chicken and king prawn stir-fries are my favourite cooked with in organic coconut oil, a little light soy sauce and a few splashes of Tabasco!

Favourite cheat meal: Pizza – Dominoes meaty feast with BBQ sauce, Praline cream, Hagan Daas ice cream and chocolate later in the night! Lol You can see I’ve really thought about this! Heaven!

What Supplements Do You Use?

The supplements I’ve outlined below would be on my essential list for anyone embarking on an intensive training programme (aerobic & resistance training 4-5 times per wk)

Whey protein isolate: Training and exercise breaks down muscle fibres, whey protein is digested rapidly and is best consumed within 30 minutes of training to initiate protein synthesis (the process in muscle cells that results in muscle growth), promoting growth and recovery.

I recommend taking x1-2 scoops (as per directed) with water immediately post workout

BCAAs – are essential for the manufacture, maintenance and repair of muscle tissue. If consumed during training I find that BCAAs improve energy levels, increase mental alertness and muscle fullness. BCAAs can also aid in muscle recovery, blunt the catabolic hormone cortisol and decrease DOMS!

Take 1 serving DURING training, mixed into your water bottle

Multi – Vitamin: Taking a good multi-vitamin will help eliminate the possibility of deficiencies that are often produced by reduced dietary variety or calorie intake and increase loss from exercise. Intense training can deplete essential vitamins and minerals.

Take 1 serving daily post workout or in the am on non-training days

Glutamine – aids hypertrophy (muscle building) by increasing levels of leucine in muscle fibres and helps decrease muscle breakdown. It also keeps the immune system functioning well, to prevent illness and missed trips to the gym! Taken pre workout (10g) glutamine can help decrease muscle fatigue by buffering lactic acid. It also boosts GH levels, making it a great supplement for post workout and before bed.

Take 3 servings daily – 10g pre/post workout and 10g before bed

Fish Oil – Fish oil contain the essential omega 3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) which are known to provide a number of health and performance benefits, including improving brain and immune system function, reducing heart disease; as well as improving protein retention and body composition.

Take 3 servings daily


What Are Your Tips For Beginners?

Total beginners should focus on getting active at least 3 times a week for roughly 30mins with a moderate intensity (60-70% of maximum heart rate) to build up their basic aerobic fitness. For basic resistance training, a full body weight routine of ~30 mins 2/3 times a week is sufficient. Don’t start off all guns blazing; make sure your exercise program is progressive over time. After the first few weeks you can start splitting your resistance training into upper/lower body and begin interval training; again make it progressive, start with 3-5 sprints and add an extra one each week.

With weight training pick a weight you think you can get 12 reps with, if you achieve that easily enough then up the weight – no matter what the rep range, you should always struggle with the last couple of reps without compromising on form/technique. Girls – we don’t have enough testosterone in our bodies to turn into the She-Hulk overnight (I wish it was that easy!), so lift heavy!! Push yourself in the gym – get sweaty, it’s not meant to be easy!!

See Also

Enlist the help of a good Personal Trainer – mastering correct form and technique is essential from the very start to prevent injury and to ensure you have a good foundation to build from. A personal trainer should also educate you on tempo, rest periods and provide you with a wide variety of exercises to utilise during your training –  all of which are essential to maximise your results!

Final tip is CONSISTENCY – you must train intensely ~4 times a week, every week for months to see results! Also keep your diet clean – 80% of results is diet. Busting your ass in the gym one week and only going twice the next will not achieve the body you’re after. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication, but it IS ACHIEVEABLE if you set your mind to it. 😀


What Is The Best Advice You Have Ever Been Given?

My trainer – Phil Graham quoted this to me when I first started weight training “Whether you think you can or you can’t – you’re right!” (Henry Ford). He introduced me to the mental aspect of training – I always thought it was a physical thing – I never realised how important it was keep a clear head, stay focused and maintain a positive mental attitude! Obviously doubts creep in but as long as you acknowledge them but don’t dwell on them, this should help you to continue to strive forwards towards your goals.

Did You Make Any Mistakes When You First Started Out?

Yes! One that resulted in a niggly shoulder injury that I’m only just recovering from a year later!

Unfortunately when I was just starting out I got a bit ahead of myself during a heavy chest session. Buzzing that I was getting stronger I decided to up my weight, but stupidly I had the bench on too high an angle (around 30° instead of 45°), one moments lapse in concentration during my set resulted in my left elbow dropping a bit further back than it should have. I felt a slight twinge and stopped the exercise; it didn’t initially give me any more bother. However it got progressively worse over time and I started training around the pain; eventually about a year later I couldn’t even hold my hairdryer up for a period of time so I decided to get it seen to. Weeks of physio, cortisone injections and rest and I’m still recovering – lesson learnt! Another valuable reason as to why a PT is essential when starting out to minimise the risk of injuries such as this!


What’s Your Favourite Body Part?

My abs and my bum

What Other Activities Are You Interested In Apart From Fitness?

I pretty much eat, sleep and breathe fitness, so I find it hard to fit in other activities at times especially during competition prep. I love being outdoors in the sun, travelling, and socialising with my friends.

Your Best Tips To Getting Into Contest Shape?

Fasted cardio and low carb dieting – for me personally I achieve the best results during comp prep with a ketogenic diet (re-feeding every 2 weeks). Once I’m ketogenic and I continue to weight train intensely x4 times a week, plus adding in HIIT cardio before and after session I would start to drop weight/body fat on average of 1-2lbs per week/ 1% bf. After the initial 4-6 weeks when my weight starts to plateau I’ll add in fasted cardio (20-40mins) in the am and move my weights/HIIT session to later in the day. I just monitor my progress on a weekly basis and make adjustments based on that. Another important thing to mention is that I’m never on a low calorie diet – it’s what you eat not the amount you eat! I still need calories to train so I’m definitely not going to function properly on 1,200kcal a day!

Jill McConkey Video


Where Does Your Motivation Come From?

My motivation comes from a few different places, sometimes it comes from within – I take pride in my appearance and I want to be the best version of myself. Staying fit and healthy and maintaining my toned athletic look is when I feel the happiest in myself so I strive to maintain it – it’s not easy!

Motivation also comes from my personal training clients who say they’ve achieved awesome results from my diet and training programmes, from girls that I don’t even know on Facebook and Instagram saying that my picture is on their fridge or on their phone as a screen saver is just beyond flattering so that definitely motivates me to keep going.

Of course I have days like everyone else when I ask myself why I put myself though this on a weekly basis but the alternative of not training and eating well is just depressing. After a week off the gym and eating rubbish I just feel so lethargic and down, it a very vicious cycle to get into. Living the fit life for me is as much about my mental health, if not more so than my physical health.

Favourite Fitness Models? Inspirations?

I’m very lucky to be able to call my biggest female fitness inspiration my friend – Miss Bikini Olympia 2012 Nathalia Melo.

Other fitness models who physiques, determination and attitude I admire are Ashley Horner, Dianna Dahlgren, Michelle Brannan, Nicole Wilkins, Jenna Renee and Larissa Reis!

Favourite Quotes?

“ If you do what you’ve always done, you will get what you’ve always got” Mark Twain

“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out. “ Robert Collier

My favourite one that I say to my PT clients:

“It takes 4 weeks for you to notice your body changing, 8 weeks for your friends and 12 weeks for the rest of the world! Give it 12 weeks”

For More Of Jill Check Out:


Rockpit Fitness:
Clearcut Health & Fitness:

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