Multistage fitness (beep) tests are something we all remember doing at school, and the name alone may bring about thoughts of dread among some of you. But just how beneficial is this practice for our overall fitness levels? In order to gain a better understanding of what the multistage fitness test entails, OriGym will break down the wider topic into the following points:
- What is a Multistage Fitness Test?
- A Brief History of The Multistage Fitness Test
- Multistage Fitness Test Equipment
- How to Conduct a Multistage Fitness Test
- How to Score the Multistage Fitness Test
- Factors to Take Into Consideration for The Beep Test
- Issues With The Multistage Fitness Test
- Different Variations of The Multistage Fitness Test
But before we start, have you ever wanted to work in the fitness industry? OriGym’s award-winning personal training diploma will help you kick start your career, with the help of an incredible team who are on hand to guide you seven days a week.
Sound interesting? Be sure to download our FREE comprehensive prospectus today and explore everything we offer, and how it could be right for you.
Download Your FREE 16 Week Half Marathon Training Programme
Written by Professional S & C Coaches
What is a Multistage Fitness Test?
The multistage fitness test is known across the world by many different names, sometimes referred to as the beep test, bleep test, PACER PACER test, FitnessGram PACER test or 20m shuttle run. Regardless of how it’s dubbed it always consists of the same test or one of a similar variation.
The beep test is designed to act as a continuous sub-maximal challenge designed to measure your aerobic power. It requires athletes to perform continuous 20m shuttle runs, in which the individual must reach the opposite end of the 20m grid before a beep sounds off.
As the multistage fitness test progresses the time between beeps will decrease following each minute, meaning that athletes will have to constantly increase their speed to make it to the opposing side.
The increasing speed is the factor that determines the difficulty and intensity of the beep test. As time progresses you will notice that the challenge becomes significantly harder on your body.
These increments of time are often referred to as ‘beep test levels’, and as the frequency of the audio cue increases, you will go up a level.
These beep test levels typically go up to 23 and last 1-2 minutes each, depending on which variation of the test you perform. Be aware of this factor before the initial sound cue, as knowing when it’s due helps to determine your estimated speed and the overall duration of the test.
Additionally, keep in mind that there are multiple different variations of the beep test, but the most commonly used protocol is, to begin with an initial speed velocity of 8.5km/hr, before increasing the speed 0.5km/hr each minute.
One of the advantages of the multistage fitness test is that it’s often used in aerobic reliant sports due to the fact that it can measure aerobic power. Frequently, the beep test will be used to train athletes in the following sports:
With all that in mind, if you are ever asked ‘what is a multistage fitness test’, you can respond by using the knowledge acquired within this section. In short, the beep test is a challenge that measures the aerobic power of athletes through a series of increasing time restrictions.
This is one of the basic and easy-to-manage fitness tests out there, and is the ideal operation for newcomers in the industry to manage. If you’re interested in entering the fitness industry full time why not sign up for our Level 2 Fitness Instructor Course, where you’ll be given the tools needed to instantly launch your career upon graduation.
A Brief History of The Multistage Fitness Test
Now that you have a better understanding of how to answer ‘what is a multistage fitness test?’, it may be of interest to learn how this fitness challenge came to be.
The beep test was first developed in 1982 from the University of Montreal Track Test, which was an incremental continuous running test conducted around a 400m running track.
This test laid the foundation for the fitness challenge we know today, as the Montreal athletes would have to increase their pace every two minutes, following an audio cue set up by their coach.
This challenge evolved with the beep test distance shortening the space required to run from 400m to 20m, making it possible to perform indoors to control environmental factors.
The first-ever multistage fitness test was operated by Léger and Lambert, who established the protocol of two-minute stages/levels between the sound cues.
The beep test distance was reduced for the children’s variation, which was first conducted in 1988. Whilst children are expected to run the same distance, instead of running for 2-minute increments the test was altered to 1 minute, to accommodate the cardiovascular demands of their younger and smaller bodies.
The multistage fitness test is currently used by sporting organisations around the world along with schools, military forces, and other athletes interested in improving their cardiovascular endurance.
Over time, the beep test has been adapted and altered in order to be suitable for many different groups of individuals and environments. But one thing remains the same regardless of how the variations alter, and that is the multistage fitness test is one of the most reliable indicators of cardiovascular fitness to ever be created.
If you’re a lover of cardiovascular fitness and want to learn more about it, then take a look at OriGym’s CPD circuit training course. Here you will gain a better understanding of how this training operates, and why it is beneficial to you.
Multistage Fitness Test Equipment
When conducting a beep test, you will be required to have a specified list of equipment. This section is dedicated to breaking down all the necessary components you will need to ensure the test runs smoothly.
#1 - A Controlled Environment
Contrary to your initial assumptions surrounding multistage fitness test equipment, the test’s environment is arguably the most important factor of the test that needs to be kept consistent. This is to ensure that the findings are validated.
At OriGym, we strongly advise conducting the beep test indoors in an environment that is large enough to accommodate the 20m distance required.
There are advantages of multistage fitness tests taking place indoors; by doing so, you are controlling the environment and eliminating any factors which may influence or interfere with a participant's overall performance, such as weather conditions and the running surface.
The disadvantages of the beep test taking place outdoors are that surfaces can be uneven or slippery, meaning that athletes will not run at their regular speed and will therefore give an inaccurate reading of their cardiovascular fitness levels.
#2 - Marking Cones and Measuring Tape
As an essential piece of multistage fitness test equipment, both marking cones and measuring tape are needed to guarantee that the test meets the regulated guidelines.
Place one of the marking cones at a position of your choice, then using the measuring tape count a 20m distance away from said cone. Once you have an accurate measurement, place a second cone on the floor to clearly mark out a clear indication of the test's starting point and turn around point.
When establishing the boundaries of the beep test it’s important to have multiple cones, this is especially important if a large group of people are taking the test simultaneously. By setting out two long lines of cones, every participant will have a clear visual indication of the endpoint of their running.
#3 - Loud Speaker and Beep Test Audio
These pieces of multistage fitness test equipment are vital for ensuring an accurate reading of your cardiovascular fitness levels.
Without an authentic beep test audio cue, the whole process would become invalidated. Athletes who are participating need said audio cue to determine how fast they should run from point A to point B.
With modern-day social media platforms, you can easily acquire the standardised audio cues from sites such as Spotify and YouTube. Whatsmore, beep test apps are also available for every variation of smartphones, so there are always options for coaches/researchers to use.
Much like the marking cones above, ensuring that you have a loudspeaker will be to the benefit of all the participants. Relying on your phone or laptop’s speaker may interfere with the test’s results as certain participants may not be able to hear the cues and as a result may run at a slower rate.
In order to avoid inaccurate results, OriGym advises using a loudspeaker, to ensure that all participants can clearly hear the audio cues change in frequency.
These pieces of multistage fitness test equipment are vital in ensuring that the participants produce accurate results. Once all of this has been acquired and set up, you will be ready to conduct a beep test.
Learning how to conduct these tests is one of the vital components in becoming a successful personal trainer. Within this job role you will be required to plan and guide your clients through these challenges, if this sounds interesting then you’re ready to become a Level 3 Personal Trainer today.
How to Conduct a Multistage Fitness Test
From the previous sections, you should now have a better understanding of how to conduct a beep test. However, this section is dedicated to specifically breaking down the fitness challenge moment by moment, just as it would typically occur in real-time.
The process of conducting the beep test is fairly straightforward and can be accomplished by just about anyone with the right amount of determination.
Step 1 - Participants begin by standing in a line on the starting point, which is clearly established with marking cones.
Step 2 - When instructed by the audio player, the participants begin running across the 20m distance towards the secondary line of marking cones, which is often referred to as ‘the turn around line’.
Between audio cues, participants run back and forth from the starting line to the turnaround point (these moments are classified as shuttle runs). To successfully complete the round and advance onto further beep test levels, you must not be caught between lines when the audio cue sounds off.
Step 3 - If said participant fails to reach the next beep test levels within the allotted time they are given one ‘fail’ against their name, but are still allowed to continue.
However, if an athlete achieves 2 consecutive fails when attempting to reach further beep test levels they must then immediately leave the test. But if said athlete reaches the line before the second beep, then their failed attempt resets.
Step 4 - Participants will then complete a series of further beep test levels, running back and forth between marking cones until they reach the point of exhaustion.
Step 5 - Once the participants have failed to reach higher beep test levels, or complete the test in its entirety their results must be recorded to determine the rate of their cardiovascular endurance.
As stated above, one of the biggest advantages of the multistage fitness test is that it’s very easy to conduct. The real challenge lies within the process of authenticating the participants' results, for that you need to have a detailed recording of each participant's beep test levels.
How to Score the Multistage Fitness Test
Beep test scores can be presented in three different ways, many online academic resources will typically choose to present their findings using all of these measuring methods. However, if only one is used be sure to know which that is, as they differ vastly in findings.
The beep test scores are presented in the following ways:
- VO2 MAX
- Total Distance Traveled in Meters
- Beep Test Levels Reached
In order to gain a better understanding of how all of these beep test scores operate, we will break each measurement down into its own respective sub-section.
#1 - VO2 MAX
Beep test scores that are marked with VO2 may look somewhat confusing, but rest assured it is fairly easy to understand once you know all the basic components.
In short, VO2 Max is the maximum (max) rate (V) of oxygen (O2) your body is able to use during exercise.
During the beep test, VO2 Max measurements can clearly indicate your overall performance as your maximum levels of oxygen increase you will notice a significant improvement in your beep test scores.
But how exactly do you calculate beep test VO2 max results? To understand this measurement method you must be aware that there are different formulas for working out the VO2 scores of adults and children.
These formulas were first calculated using the results found in the first beep test, as performed by Léger et al.
The following formula is the beep test VO2 Max measurement for children, it is predicted using the maximum 20m level speed (km/h-1) and the age rounded to the nearest integer.
- VO2 Max = 31.025 + 3.238 (speed) - 3.246 + 0.1536 (speed)
Formula for predicting beep test VO2 Max results in adults, using the maximum speed (km/h-1)
- VO2 Max = 23.4 + 5.8 (Speed)
These formulas may look complicated but have no fear as there are a plethora of online tools at your disposal to calculate your beep test scores. If you want to avoid doing the maths yourself, simply use one of these VO2 Max calculators.
#2 - Total Distance Travelled in Meters
This is arguably the easiest way to measure your beep test score, and it is also regarded as the most reliable method of measurement.
During the beep test, the distance traveled can be calculated by taking the amount of levels participants complete and then multiplying this result by 20. This multiplication is done in order to reflect the total distance of the 20m multistage fitness test.
For example, if an athlete completes 30 levels the formula for calculating their total beep test distance would like this:
- 30 x 20 = 600
At OriGym, we recommend this method of measuring beep test distance for all newcomers as it is by far the simplest to execute and still produces reliable results.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to improve the distance you travel within an allotted time, then click here for our article on Cardio & Aerobic exercise.
#3 - Beep Test Levels Reached
An alternative way to calculate your beep test distance score is through the number of levels you successfully accomplish. Typically, this method of scoring is used in schools and other organised events that seek to tally general information.
This beep test distance formula takes into account the level you reach and how many shuttle runs you successfully complete during said level.
Reminder - shuttle runs are the name typically used to describe the number of times you run from point A to point B within the allotted time frame of the level.
For example, if you reach level 10 and run between lines A and B a total of 8 times, you will have successfully completed 10 levels and 8 shuttle runs. This beep test distance score will be presented as simply ‘Level 10: Shuttle 8’ or may take a more simplistic approach of ‘10/8’.
What Does a Multistage Fitness Test Measure?
Whilst we are on the topic of how the beep test is scored and measured, an off-shoot question often posed is ‘what does a multistage fitness test measure?’.
As stated within the introductory section of this article, the 20m multistage fitness test is used to measure your aerobic power, but what exactly does this mean? Aerobic power/fitness/capacity (as these terms are often used interchangeably) refers to any type of cardiovascular exercise, and by its very definition aerobic exercise means ‘with oxygen’.
Therefore, when faced with the question ‘what does a multistage fitness test measure?’, we can say that it measures the amount of oxygen consumed.
Which is why some argue that V02 Max is the most efficient way of scoring, as it will directly reflect the purpose of the test. However, others still argue that VO2 Max is not reliable enough, as it fails to take into account different variables that could affect the results.
Factors To Take Into Consideration For The Beep Test
This section is an important read for those who are looking to conduct their own beep test, as these are factors that could influence your research and overall results.
#1 - Personal Expectations
Before recording the results of your own 20m multistage fitness test, please remember that there isn’t one ‘desired outcome’ of this test. If you’re questioning ‘what is a good beep test result?’, please keep in mind that this isn’t something that people can pass or fail, and a ‘good result’ is subjective to the individual.
As a researcher, you should be prepared to see participants drop off the test at different times, and reflect this in your final results. Never tamper with your findings just to match your pre-set expectations or hypothesis, instead use every piece of evidence to create a more rounded and engaging experiment.
If you’re interested in studying a specific group of individuals then it may be easier to estimate the final beep test scores. However, at OriGym we advise going into this test as open as possible, willing to adapt your study to whatever results occur.
Be sure to remember that there is no direct answer to the question ‘what is a good beep test result?’, and as a researcher, you must stress this to your participants prior to the test commencing.
#2 - Participants Overall Effort
When conducting a 20m multistage fitness test of your own, a variable that you can’t control is the amount of effort your participants put in.
Some individuals with little exercise experience may give it their maximum effort, and produce a beep test score on the higher end of the scale. Whereas professional athletes may put in minimal effort and in turn produce a set of lower results.
A participant's efforts may produce inaccurate results, so be sure to check up on everyone prior to the beginning of the beep test and ensure that they are still willing to participate. Offering the athletes something in return for their time is likely to increase their interest in the event, even if that something is as simple as food or a small participation fee.
Do you find yourself longing to motivate those who lack the drive of their own? If so, you are the perfect candidate for our Level 4 Personal Trainer course, in which you will learn how to motivate your clients to reach their dreams.
#3 - Test Regulations
To achieve accurate beep test scores, specific regulations must be set in place and followed by every participant.
This can be achieved by positioning two researchers at either side of the test line. That way you will be able to see if an athlete is not reaching the line in time for the beep, thus eliminating the chance of external variables interfering with your results.
Prior to the commencement of the multistage fitness test, be sure to lay out all of your specific test’s regulations, ensuring that everyone receives the same information and will be performing in the correct manner.
#4 - Clothing and Footwear
Be sure to dictate what you want your participants to wear prior to the commencement of the multistage fitness test.
Incorrect gear and footwear can seriously prohibit an athlete's overall performance, which in turn can have a knock-on effect to negatively impact the beep test scores.
However, if you’re a participant in this test it’s your responsibility to ensure that your gear actually fits. You could have the clothing perfectly designed for the beep test, but once it commences you notice things are too baggy or too tight.
When conducting or taking part in an experiment of this magnitude always come prepared, taking into consideration everything that we have discussed within this section. By planning ahead you will be able to successfully eliminate any variable that would otherwise affect the results of your test.
If you’re enjoying this article on Multistage Fitness (Beep) Tests then we feel you may enjoy these other OriGym articles.
- What is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness?
- A Day In The Life of a Personal Trainer
- 21 Long Distance Running Tips
Become a Personal Trainer with OriGym!
- Qualify & start earning in just 2 weeks
- Study full-time, part-time or online
- REPS & CIMSPA Accredited
Issues With The Multistage Fitness Test
To present a fully rounded view of this experiment we would be remiss if we didn’t discuss the disadvantages of the beep test too.
Whilst the bleep test is regarded as a groundbreaking experiment in the fitness industry, it isn’t without its flaws. Within this section, we will dissect some of the biggest critiques that have been lobbied against it.
#1 - VO2 Max Reading’s May Not Be Reliable
Despite being designed to literally monitor the maximum oxygen intake within our bodies, recent research suggests that one of the primary disadvantages of the beep test is that it does not produce accurate VO2 Max readings.
The previously mentioned formula to calculate VO2 readings uses what's known as agreement statistics. These stats are used to test two variables against each other, to determine their outcome, for example in children these variables are level speed and age.
However, this modern research argues that to gain an accurate reading of the participant's VO2 Max levels researchers must use correlation statistics, rather than agreement statistics.
Correlation statistics take both of the variables present in the agreement variations and compare them against each other to determine if the technique of measuring one variable is suitable for another.
By using agreement statistics, researchers could be unknowingly providing inaccurate readings of VO2 Max, making the whole process of the beep test completely redundant.
#2 - Larger Groups are Harder to Analyse
One of the biggest disadvantages of bleep tests is that it is hard to analyse larger groups using this technique.
When conducting a test in a smaller group it's easier to see who has made it to the line in time for the beep, and who receives a fail. However, when analysing a larger group, researchers may lose track of who already has one fail against their name and who hasn't.
Smaller groups may influence beep test scores, as the results collected may not be as in-depth as the researcher would have preferred. Alternatively, the researcher may have to spend more time conducting multiple experiments in order to get their desired amount of readings.
The damage caused by this disadvantage of bleep tests can be minimised through the number of researchers involved. If you’re working in a large research group, be sure to assign everyone a specific section of the 20m field to watch over to track assigned participants, rather than struggling to focus on everyone at once.
If you’re a trainer who struggles to deal with larger classes we would strongly recommend signing up for OriGym’s Group Exercise Instructor CPD course. Where you will gain a confidence boost whilst learning how to command an entire room.
#3 - Familiarity With The Experiment
At some point in our lives, the vast majority of us have taken part in a multistage fitness test of some kind, whether it occurred at school, the workplace, or you just did it for fun.
Surprisingly, how familiar you are with how the test operates can influence how you perform in it. On average, those who have little to no previous experience with bleep tests achieve worse results than those who have partaken in one in the past.
This is an example of the disadvantages of bleep tests, as something as simple as the familiarity with how the test operates can drastically influence the results.
To avoid this variable affecting your bleep test results, we recommend familiarising your participants with the test, ideally prior to the beginning of the experiment. This is a straightforward process and can be conducted through simple test drills.
Different Variations of The Beep Test
There are many different variations of the existing beep test, however, for the purpose of this section, we will focus on the versions that are more commonly used within the UK.
Please be aware that some countries will have their own variations of the test, with specific variables being altered in each different incarnation.
#1 - Standard EuroFit
The standard EuroFit is commonly used in both the UK and Australia and differs from the classic variation ever so slightly.
The EuroFit multistage fitness test starts with a speed of 8.0 km.h for the first level, before then increasing to 9.0 km/h for the second. Following this jump, the speed is then increased each level by 0.5 km/h.
#2 - PACER15
As we already know, the 20m multistage fitness test is the standardised practice for this particular experiment. However, the PACER15 is often used when there isn’t enough space to fully accommodate the regular 20m.
This test is practically identical to the standardised variation first created by Léger and Lambert, with one key difference being that participants run 15 meters instead of 20.
Everything else operates the same, participants will still begin at 8.5 km/h speed with increasing at 0.5 km/h intervals after every minute.
#3 - PACER15 UK Police
This beep test is also commonly referred to as ‘beat the beep’ and is used to train the fitness levels of potential police officers.
Whilst the participants still have to run 15 meters, the timings differentiate following every beep. The time between each one continues to get shorter and shorter, and each level requires the participants to achieve at least 4 shuttles.
The whole test typically takes 3 minutes and 35 seconds, covering a total of 525m in distance.
How to Train for the Beep Test
When it comes to how to train for the beep test, the best possible answer is to train through the process of interval training, as it will effectively condition your body for the intense cardiovascular challenges ahead.
For your beep test training to be successful, you don’t need to wear yourself out, rather we would recommend aiming for a steady pace. A simple technique for this process can involve a gentle warmup, followed by 15-20 minutes of easy running, followed by a cool-down routine.
Interval training benefits your overall beep test training too, as it allows your body to become accustomed to the beep test format. To successfully conduct interval training, we suggest 30 seconds of intense sprinting and 30 seconds of walking.
This interval routine needs to be performed a total of 10 times in rapid succession to prepare your body for the beep test.
You should also work to incorporate 180-degree turns into your beep test training routine, in which you pivot and run in the opposite direction. This will better prepare you for the test, as during it you will be constantly back and forth, needing to turn at a moment's notice.
Beep test training is similar to that of marathon training, as both require you to do excessive amounts of running to boost your cardiovascular endurance. If you’re unsure of where to start, why not give our article dedicated to marathon training a read, it’s sure to inspire you with useful information and tips relating to running.
Can I Conduct a Beep Test on a Treadmill?
A beep test on a treadmill is easily doable, and in fact some may deem it to be an easier method of practicing this fitness challenge. This is due to the fact that you have direct control over the speed of the treadmill, making it somewhat easier to increase your speed to match the audio cue.
At OriGym, we recommend starting your beep test on a treadmill at a total speed of 5.5 mph, which equates to a light jog. After every minute, be sure to increase your overall speed by 0.5mph.
After 5 minutes you will be running at 8 mph and in 10 minutes you will be running 10.5 mph. Some regard conducting a beep test on a treadmill to be harder than the regular variation, as you won’t have the short recovery time provided by turning around.
Be warned, that exercising to the point of exhaustion is never easy and should ideally be avoided when exercising alone as it could result in serious injury. Therefore, at OriGym we only recommend practicing a beep test on a treadmill when exercising in a pair or group.
If you’re interested in this approach to beep test training, then read our article on the 17 best treadmills on the market today, for more information relating to beneficial products.
Are There Beep Test Apps I Can Download?
Beep test apps are an incredibly popular and easy way of engaging with this experiment without the need for researchers or other participants.
Beep test apps often operate in a simplistic manner, asking you what speed you’d like to begin with, and how much you’d like to increase every minute.
Just about every smartphone has a plethora of beep test apps ready to be downloaded at a moment's notice. Our advice would be to try a few different ones to see which one is best suited for you.
When using beep test apps, a level of honesty is required. If you don’t make the beep, don't lie and continue, as by doing so you won’t receive an accurate indication of your fitness level.
Likewise, when practicing alone, be realistic with your approach and don’t set the speed of your beep test app too high, as this will only result in failure.
Written by Professional S & C Coaches
Download Your FREE 16 Week Half Marathon Training Programme
Written by Professional S & C Coaches
Before You Go!
We hope that our article on multistage fitness tests has provided you with all the information that you needed surrounding this form of workout.
If you are participating in, or conducting, your own bleep test in the near future, be sure to train hard in order to achieve your desired goals. However, don’t forget to take it easy and never push yourself beyond your needs, remember in this experiment there’s no such thing as a bad result.
But before you go, if you have a longing desire to work in the fitness sector check out OriGym’s award-winning personal training diploma. Upon graduation, we’ll provide you with the tools and knowledge needed to immediately launch your career.
Alternatively, you can always download our FREE comprehensive prospectus today and further explore all the courses we provide, in order to find the one that is right for you.
- L A Léger Et Al. (1988) The multistage 20 metre shuttle run test for aerobic fitness. PubMed
- S Cooper (2005) The repeatability and criterion related validity of the 20 m multistage fitness test as a predictor of maximal oxygen uptake in active young men. PubMed