The Beep Test, Bleep Test, or 20 Meter Multi-Stage Shuttle Run… Oh My!

Sometimes the simplest of challenges can be the most painstaking ones. The Beep Test, or the Bleep Test, challenges even the most athletic people in the world. Soccer teams, militaries, police forces, and other athletic organizations use the beep test to monitor aerobic fitness or the VO2 max and endurance. The difficulty becomes so intense that it’s popular for communities of athletes’ fans to speculate and rumor their idol’s score on the test.

A popular speculation, for example, is David Beckham’s completion of the 21 level test. Let’s just say, no one has ever been recorded finishing the test, but some claim it.

For being such a renowned standard in athletic communities, you would think that the Bleep Test challenges participants in a number of ways. However, it is wildly simple and takes very minimal equipment to get started.

So why are we talking about this test today? You might not have heard of it up to this point, so why consider it now. Well, your personal training clients can benefit from it in a number of ways. So without further ado, let’s get into the thick of what the Bleep – Wait. I mean Beep Test is its close cousins, and how it can increase and track progress.

The History

The Beep Test was developed by Luc L├ęger at the University of Montreal based on the University of Montreal Track Test (UMTT). He formulated this test to accurately measure the VO2 max that a person can reach in a smaller space either outdoors or in. This made the test versatile and after much research on its efficacy in measuring aerobic fitness, it became widely popular.

The first paper he and a colleague published on the test came together in 1982. From there, many studies have been conducted to verify the efficacy of the test. Most prove that it does, in fact, reflect the measurements well. Others have modified the test over time resulting in

What is the VO2 maximum and why is it important for fitness levels?

This is your oxygen uptake while you are in motion. The more oxygen you are able to take in, the more measurably fit you are. Without the scientific jargon, the more oxygen you can intake, the more energy you can develop. The more energy you can develop, the longer your endurance and stamina will be. Your body in its entirety functions better and quicker with a higher oxygen uptake or VO2 maximum.

The Beep Test Structure

The name of the test outlines the entire structure. Your physiological and mental fitness are tested by beeps or bleeps. Thankfully, the bleeps are nothing close to jolting or mind-numbing. However, their increasing intensity becomes daunting and as exhausting as a full game of soccer.

Nonetheless, this simple test only requires a recording of the beeping audio, a speaker to play it on, and 20 meters of distance between two marked points. That’s all folks.

Participants must pace themselves as they run between the 20-meter markers. When the beep sounds, the runners must make their way to the other side. Upon the next beep, the runners make their way back to the previous marker before the next beep sounds. The initial levels are quite easy to complete with the first two practically at a walking pace.

Below, you’ll find a chart of the progression through the 21 levels of the test.

Beep Test Cumulative Chart for Levels and other Metrics
Chart of measurements for the Beep Test.

The test in total is around 22 minutes long, and if fully completed, the participants run a distance of 4,780 meters. As you can see by the chart the pace increases gradually over the levels and requires that participants be precise when running between the markers as the pace increases.

When a person misses two beeps by not reaching the marker in time, the test is over. The data from the completed laps applies to the equation for measuring VO2 max.

To measure the VO2 max based on your level score from the test, you must apply that score to an equation. Lucky for us, people have designed web-based VO2 max calculators where you can throw in the numbers where they fit and get the results you need.

Nonetheless, the Beep Test may sound similar to the all-famous, or rather infamous, PACER test. It’s akin to the test with a bit of pizazz.

Comparison to the PACER

PACER stands for:

Progressive
Aerobic
Cardio
Endurance
Run

This test is a newer slight variation of the Beep Test. Calculating the score of the PACER uses the total number of laps completed and increases in pace as the levels progress. Both have 21 levels and progress at the same rate through the levels and the laps.

Better yet, the PACER is slightly more appealing to the ears than the simpler Beep Test with its cool transitions between levels and jazz-funk tunes.

The Progression

Throughout my research of the subject, I found that many people train specifically for improving on the beep test. Training for the beep test tremendously improves your cardio as well as your aerobic fitness. As you progress through levels of the beep test, your ability to pace yourself, conserve energy, mentally overcome the challenge, and physiologically manage increases.

Most of all, cardio and aerobic fitness help to improve your endurance and stamina. Without a doubt, these factors benefit people in many ways for their applications of fitness. However, it also benefits people throughout their lives. Cardio and aerobic wellness affect how you age, your perception of time, and your onset of chronic disease.

Therefore, even if not actually doing the beep test as a test for an outside entity, it has a full potential to benefit you in all aspects of life. Personal training is all about setting personal goals, crushing them, and then setting them higher than before. The Beep Test is a cut-and-dry method for achieving just that.

Level progression is the easiest, gamified, method for tracking progress. Gamification tactics help to release dopamine each time a person has made an accomplishment. So, what better way to do that than by testing aerobic health through levels?

The Beep Test Academy

The Beep Test has rallied some influence in the world of fitness and the Beep Test Academy exemplifies just that. The need to train for beep tests stems from their application in professional qualifications for sports teams, military, police, and other athletically inclined engagements.

A couple of resourceful fitness fanatics designed the Beep Test Academy to provide personal training to people who wish to progress through the levels of the test. Their website has all the information you need to best understand the test and the steps to take to continue progressing through it. On the site, you can sign up for an entire course stocked with 12 modules on how to train effectively for the Beep Test.

Personal Training Application

Now, let’s bring all these points together and apply them to how this test can add value to your personal training.

First, we just covered gamification. Gamifying your clients’ goals and how they reach them further incentivizes reaching them and setting newer, higher goals. This test gamifies measurements and progress on a key indicator of fitness levels. Even the best athletes in the world reach their max level (and max VO2) through the Beep Test.

This could prove a worthy test for personal training clients who suffer from asthma or any other condition that affects their oxygen intake.

It is easy to set up just about anywhere with a comfortable 20-meter distance and a surface with enough traction for pivoting and running. This test takes less than 20 minutes to complete for the average person.

So overall, you could implement this into your sessions with clients for a great workout, a challenge, and a progress tracking measure.

With FitSW, you can implement this into any of your workouts with the Beep Test audio preloaded into your exercise database!

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