Anatomy of a Biathlete: Can Monika Hojnisz Control Her Heart Rate Better?
Articles Blog

Anatomy of a Biathlete: Can Monika Hojnisz Control Her Heart Rate Better?

November 18, 2019

We’ve taken six
of the world’s top athletes, to find out what it takes
to make a true Olympian. Now we’re working, come on! – Testing, analysing.
– Dig deep, come on! Getting under the skin of an elite athlete. As we push their
bodies to the max. (ANATOMY OF A BIATHLETE) The physical demands
of a biathlon are really incredibly unique. What you’re asking
an athlete to do is operate at absolute
maximum intensity, and then, within seconds, relax and concentrate
in order to shoot. Cardiovascular endurance is absolutely fundamental, but on top of that, you have
to be incredibly strong. There are huge uphills,
there are big downhills, which make it utterly unique. Monika Hojnisz
is one of Poland’s most famous sport stars. She’s a biathlon
national champion, a European Championship
gold medallist, and placed fifth in
the mass-start event at the Olympic Winter Games
Sochi 2014. Few sports put
the human body through such extremes as biathlon. (MONIKA HOJNISZ, BIATHLETE) Of course, overcoming your
weaknesses is very important in any sport. It’s the only way
to really fulfil your potential and make the most
of your abilities. Monika has been skiing since
she was old enough to walk, and competing in biathlon
from the age of 12. She needs supreme endurance
to reach the highest level of her sport, but if she is
to medal at Pyeongchang 2018, she needs to excel
in many other areas too – strength, power,
cardiac response. To see just how unique
Monika’s anatomy really is, we’re working with Liverpool
John Moores University and its world-renowned School
of Sport and Exercise Sciences. OK, if you swing your legs
round to this side and pop your head up that end
for me, and just lie back. Great, thank you. The human body stores fat
in two ways – subcutaneously, below the
surface of the skin, and viscerally,
around the internal organs. A DEXA scan is the
best way to analyse Monika’s anatomical make-up and really see
how she stacks up against the competition. An Olympic female hockey player has a body-fat percentage
of 14.7. An elite marathon runner,
only 10.5. Monika’s 12.8% puts
her firmly in the upper tier of female endurance athletes. Monika is really interesting. She’s 170cm tall, so she’s not short, but she’s only weighing 49kg –
incredibly light. And she has an exceptionally
low body-fat percentage at 12.8% body fat. Very, very low, but exactly what is required, because what she is,
fundamentally, is she is muscle. When we’re at training camp,
every day is pretty similar. Early exercise
and then breakfast. After that, “complex training” which means
shooting and skiing. Then we have lunch and, just as important,
a nap and some rest. When it’s time to get up, it’s the second
training session of the day and then dinner. That’s kind of a typical day,
it may seem monotonous but that’s life as a biathlete. (DNYO) This is a dynamometer test.
Really, it’s testing strength. Now of course, Monika,
at 49 kilos, we don’t expect her to have
a huge strength output. What we do expect, though, is a very good
strength-to-weight ratio. The Dyno will show us
just how much torque Monika’s hamstrings and
quadriceps can really generate. If she wants to make it
to the podium in 2018, she needs to look at
every area of her anatomy for those vital marginal gains. OK, you ready?
3, 2, 1, push! Hard! Hard as you can. And relax. Push! Up! Up! Up! And push! Push up! And all the way. Push! Hard as you can.
Push! Up! Go! And relax. A typical Biathlete
may have the build associated with endurance events,
but it takes strength and power to ski and pole up to 15km with a 4kg rifle on your back. Right, Monika, now we’re going
to test the hamstring muscles in the back of your leg. For biathletes, there’s
a critical trade-off between increased muscle mass
and body weight. The lighter Monika is,
the less she has to carry around the course,
but she still needs muscle for those uphill climbs. She’s only 49 kilos, and
so therefore the strength is not massive, but at
49 kilos the amount of force she produces is exceptional. The results for
Monika’s quadriceps, combined with her hamstring
strength, show she’s producing the same level of torque you’d expect from
a professional footballer. Her ratio of
hamstring-to-quad strength, an indicator of
resistance to injury, is almost off the chart, and explains why despite
years of punishing competition she has never missed
a day’s racing. I know I need to work
on my leg muscles and I’m pushing really hard
in this area. I’m doing lots of
specific strength training. I know I’ve got more potential,
and this is my main physical goal for the year. (CARDIO RECOVERY) This heart-rate test
is a really interesting test because, to some extent, it
personifies what biathlon is. What we expect to see
from Monika is whether she’s moving to
a prone position, in other words
a lying position, or a standing position, is that she can
control her physiology – a very difficult thing to do –
and bring that heart rate down to optimise her
shooting performance. To understand the unique
cardiac demands of biathlon, imagine racing a Formula 1 car
flat-out for ten laps and then having to
parallel-park it several times before racing flat-out again. That’s pretty close
to the control Monika needs to exert
over her body. 3-2-1, go! Sports scientist
Sam Impey sends Monika on a series of timed runs. Nice, Monika, well done –
keep that pace. Pushing her heart rate to
nearly 150 beats per minute. OK, Monika,
prone when you get in. Top work, well done. Then she has just 45 seconds
to lower her heart rate. Great effort, that! The concentration and control
required to hit five targets barely 40mm in diameter
and 50 metres away is immense. But try doing that
after the equivalent of running a four-minute mile. If Monika is going to become
truly elite, she has to be able to shift
gears literally in a heartbeat. The pace is bang on there,
Monika, well done, really good stuff. So, when you come in now,
standing recovery. Really good work, that.
Well done. How are you feeling? Good. Monika’s results show that her cardiac-response
conditioning is truly remarkable,
effectively reducing her heart rate by half following intense activity to regain
the composure necessary to shoot at her
optimum performance. If you take,
for example, the prone, her heart rate
before she started was 140 beats per minute, and within 45 seconds it dropped below 70 beats
per minute – exceptional. You always face pressure
in competition. It’s different in training
where you’re more relaxed. Then you can control
your breathing and you shoot tens every time. But in the Olympics, no matter
how well you’re prepared, it’s really hard
to stop your emotions affecting your body. (UP CLOSE) I always used to watch
biathlon on TV, even before I started
training for the event. And back then, just like today, the King was and is
Ole Einar Bjørndalen. I think that his results,
successes, determination and what he achieved
inspired everyone else around. And for all of us kids
back then, our greatest motivation
was to be just like him. I finished fifth in
mass start at the last games, so I’m determined to do
even better next time. I’m trying to improve
every area of my performance and an Olympic medal
would mean everything to me, especially after
so many years of sacrifice. (VO2 MAX) The VO2 max test is a measure
of maximum aerobic capacity. In other words,
it’s the ability to uptake oxygen, consume
oxygen and produce energy, and the athlete simply
has to hold on for as long as
they possibly can. For Monika,
there’s no single test that will demonstrate
her physical ability to reach the top of her sport better than VO2 Max. The highest recorded scores
all belong to Nordic skiers, like biathletes, so if Monika
is going to prove herself as a title contender,
this is where it has to happen. It will be a psychological as much as a physical battle
for Monika to achieve
her maximum performance, to push herself all the way
to the limits of her endurance. Really good work,
well done. Keep going. Keep going, keep pushing. Great stuff, 15 seconds
and then we’ll go up again. A biathlete’s anatomy
is tailored beyond anything else to endure. In a typical Olympic Games, they have to ski
across multiple events, nearly 60km of fast-changing, punishing terrain
over a two-week period, with each race demanding
maximum physical effort. Great work, Monika.
Well done, well done. Come on, dig in,
keep going, keep going. Really nice, this.
Really, really good effort. Keep going. Keep pushing. – 4, 3, 2, 1.
– At 25, Monika is still a few years from
her peak endurance, most female biathletes don’t achieve their maximum
VO2 levels until they reach 30, but will her scores
see her closer to the pinnacle of performance? Great work,
can I get you some water? As well as Monika’s VO2 max, we’ve also measured
her blood lactate levels – her ability to push herself
before the build-up of lactic acid in her body
prevents her going any further. Her results proving just
how well adapted she is to sustained maximal effort. But it’s her VO2 max results
that are truly astonishing and really put her
in a class of her own. Monika’s VO2 max –
absolutely exceptional. 66ml per kilogram
per minute is enormous. Interestingly enough, that’s
the same as Paula Radcliffe when she broke
the world marathon record. I’ve worked in this field
for three decades, and it’s probably
one of the highest VO2 maxes I’ve ever seen. I think my stamina
is my biggest advantage and it has helped me achieve
what I have in the sport. I really rely on it. Push! Up! Up! Up! Push! To reach elite-level
performance requires an athlete to refine every aspect
of their physiology. For Monika that means not just
the skills to shoot and ski, but perfecting the anatomy
to generate power, optimise cardiac response,
and exhibit supreme endurance. She’s delivered in the lab,
now she has to deliver where it really matters –
in competition. I’ve learned so much
from this testing and got some
really helpful data. A lot of the analysis
has been new to me, but I am determined to get my
performance to the next level. And this is just the start. Now, for me, biathletes
are exceptional athletes, but I think Monika
really is truly incredible. What those results tell me
is that she’s not only one of the best elite
biathletes in the world, she is probably one of the best elite endurance athletes
on this planet.

Only registered users can comment.

  1. "….After the equivalent of running a 4 minute mile"… no… it's not the equivalent of running a 4 minute mile.

    no woman has ever even come close to running a 4 minute mile and the one who came closest was part of the Russian doping scandal and she was still 12 seconds off

  2. I think the body fat really depends on what Athlet we are talking about look for example at gabriela kukalova she is also a top athlet!
    I dont think the low body fat is special for Biathlets

  3. Please, please do this for a rhythmic gymnast. I always wonder how they do to be so perfect bodywise but be so strong and still so flexible. And also, if you would do this, maybe people will see how demanding rhythmic gymnastics actually really is.

  4. Your graph at 2:31 is inaccurate.
    Monika's column should be higher than it is. I understand that you may want to show that she is impressive but numbers are numbers but the 12.8% column is unrepresentative

  5. Maybe you should do a "normal person" test, so we would have a real sense of comparison and also feel a little bit better about ourselves 😀

  6. 66 the highest VO² max? He should note for females right? Ole Einar Bjoerndalen is in the high 80's, Bjorn Daehlie's was in the 90's..

  7. i dont know how healthy and sustainable is such a low fat % and low body weight:/ probably not the most healthy thing

  8. and its wrong to measure her VO2max on treadmill run.. :/ should be on skies. Different muscles are used while running so vo2max measurments are bias here

  9. What's with the completely random comparisons? Her hamstrings produce the same level of torque as a professional footballer. Er, OK. Do professional footballers produce a particularly large amount of torque? Would I expect a female biathlete to produce more or less torque than a (male?) footballer?

    Imagine racing a Formula 1 car flat out for ten laps and then having to parallel park it several times. Oh, come on. I can't possibly imagine what it's like to race an F1 car. No ordinary person has any idea what that involves.

    These comparisons tell me nothing.

  10. Why is everyone else's title about how amazing they are and Monika's is what she needs to improve on? Obviously from the video she's amazing but it makes people who only read the title think that she isn't going to be that great and skip the video.

  11. this whole series is one big "theres no steroids here…" promotion haha "see theres nobody using gear, they do all this stuff to be good…"

  12. I wish they would show more footage of this sport when the Olympics are broadcast on U.S. television. Instead we get 8000 hours of freaking figure skating because NBC has determined that is all we want to see. Instead of getting to see these elite level athletes compete in a grueling sport, we get that freak show Johnny Wier and his daily dose of transvestite costumes.

  13. The highest recorded Vo2 score belongs to a Norwegian cyclist, even topping Bjørn Dæhlies world-known score.

  14. To start with, she is naturally skinny. That is why even in such brutal sport, she doesn't seem to put on so much muscular look.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *