Doctoral Dissertation

9.7.2018 M.Sc. (Sport Sciences) Simo Ihalainen (Facul­ty of Sport and Health Sciences, Biomechanics)


9.7.2018 12:00 — 15:00

Location: Seminaarinmaki , Liikuntarakennus L303
M.Sc. (Sport Sciences) Simo Ihalainen defends his doctoral dissertation in Biomechanics "Technical determinants of competitive rifle shooting performance”.

Opponent Professor Øyvind Sandbakk (Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway) and Custos Professor Vesa Linnamo (University of Jyväskylä). The doctoral dissertation is held in English. 

According to a PhD study by Simo Ihalainen, shooting performance and shooting technique worsens during competition situation. In this study, the shooting technique measurements were conducted in actual competition situations for the first time. The novel results demonstrate the profound effect of psychological pressure from competition situations on the shooting technique.

- Even though the competition situation decreased shooting performance, there were huge individual differences in the athlete’s ability to cope with the psychological pressure in a competition situation. Some athletes were able to maintain their shooting technique closer to the training situation level, which also transferred to better shooting results, Ihalainen explains.

Smooth triggering is a key element in biathlon standing shooting technique

Successful performance in target shooting sports requires a highly skilled and stable shooting technique. The most important shooting technical components were identified based on 20 000 shots by elite level shooters.

- The shooting technique model in the present study includes hold stability, aiming accuracy, timing of triggering and smooth triggering. The effect of smooth triggering was more profound in biathlon compared to air rifle shooting. Smooth triggering explained 60 % of the hit percentage in biathlon, Ihalainen states.

Smooth triggering refers to a shooter’s ability to control and minimize the aiming point movement during the very last phase before the shot execution.

- Triggering is smooth when the movement of the aiming point is small and uncontrolled when the movement is large during the triggering phase. ‘Jerking’ the trigger can result from poor trigger finger technique or from disturbances in postural balance during the triggering phase, Ihalainen explains.

The shooting technique model explained 81 % of the shooting score in air rifle shooting. The practice season’s technique test results were clearly related to the competition results achieved during the season. Stability of hold measured in the testing situation explained 50 % of the best competition result achieved during the season.

New insights into developing elite level sports performance

Shooting sport coaches and athletes are able to use commercial shooting training systems and perform the same shooting technique measurements as in the present study. Systematic training can develop all of the important shooting technique components presented in the study.

- Athletes and coaches can use the results of the present study to identify strengths and weaknesses in the athletes’ shooting technique and then direct training programs on distinct shooting technique components. Regular technique tests can also be used to monitor training progress, which is an important part in optimizing elite athletes training, Ihalainen considers.

In addition to technique training, Ihalainen encourages athletes and coaches to put emphasis on developing mental skills in stressful competition situations. 

For more information:
Simo Ihalainen, p. +358 50 338 9519,

Communications officer Martta Walker, p. +358 40 805 4717,

The dissertation is published in the series Studies in Sport, Physical Education and Health, University of Jyväskylä, 2018, 62 p., ISSN 0356-1070; 270, ISBN: 978-951-39-7467-1 (nid.), ISBN 978-951-39-7468-8 (pdf). It is available at the University Library’s Publications Unit, tel. +358 40 805 3825,

Link to thesis:

The dissertation study was funded by KIHU - Research Institute for Olympic Sport, the University of Jyväskylä and the International Biathlon Union (IBU).

More information

Simo Ihalainen

+358 50 338 9519