Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles 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.