Exercise of the week: BEEP TEST aka. 20m Shuttle Run Test

It wouldn't be 2020 without a very cruel exercise of the week to represent some of the other cruel hardships we've faced this year.

The beep test, also known as the 20m shuttle run test, is validated and reliable test which is predictive of the maximal rate of oxygen consumption (VO2max), considered the gold standard for measurement of aerobic fitness. Because a VO2max test costs upwards of $150-250 in Calgary, and will set you back an hour of laboratory time, the beep test was developed to be used as a convenient alternative.

Paliczka et al. (1987) reasoned that the 20m Shuttle Run test is an ideal field test because judgment about pace is eliminated by using audio signals, the incremental test ensures a gradual rise in work rate and heart rate, the test is highly reliable (r = 0.975; Léger and Lambert, 1982), and large numbers of participants can be tested at a time.

I've used the beep test for over a decade with a range of athletes and general population clients to get a quick idea of where someone's cardiovascular fitness it at. The beep test is great, because as long as you have a 20m space, the recording, and some grit, you too can determine your fitness within 20 minutes.

Because this is a maximal aerobic test, hire a CSEP Clinical Exercise Physiologist to run the testing for you, so that you can get the appropriate screening in advance, and check with your doctor if you're unsure if you should be exercising maximally. I'm a CSEP-CEP so feel free to write to me with any questions you might have about this testing protocol!

What do I need to get started?

Equipment Needed: minimum 2 cones for 1 person, 4 cones for 2 people +, tape measure, stereo and shuttle run CD (or the YouTube recording attached below)

Set-Up: Measure a 20 m distance and place cones at either end of a 20m gym or marked-off space.

Data to Record: last stage completed before stopping.

Instructions for the test:

  1. Do a thorough warm up before you begin. Here's a blog we wrote on the importance of warm ups and why you shouldn't warm up *too long*. Try to include some drills like THESE in one of our other blog posts.

  2. You will need at least 20m of space where you can run out 20m and back 20m along the same line. This makes this test feasible to include in Physical Education classes, field testing, and "fun" workouts.

  3. Make sure to tie your laces with double knots, tight, and have on running shoes instead of casual sneakers. Because of the repeated and eventual high-intensity cuts you will have to perform with this test, having a shoe with extra pronation support or ankle support might be a good idea. Don't wear casual Nike-free's or the like, as I've seen too many athletes roll their ankles in those shoes during this test.

  4. Download the recording of the 20m Shuttle Run. Below I've attached the Australian Beep Test version (there is also a Canadian version out there, called the Leger 20m shuttle run), as this is the version we've been using for the last 4 years with the University of Calgary Dino's Women's Hockey Team.

  5. Turn your phone on airplane mode if you cannot download the recording, so that you don't have any interruptions during the test (keep your wifi on if that's how you're accessing the test!)

  6. Participants are instructed to run between the 2 20m lines with a pivot between the lines. You do not have to run past the line before you turn around, rather you can pivot and run within the two lines. Do not leave the line before the beep.

Termination Criteria

a) Failure to make it to the line on a BEEP twice in a row.

b) Failure to wait at line until BEEP sounds twice in a row.


How did I do on the test?

Use the following table to find your maximal aerobic speed (MAS) from the highest level you attained on the test (column 2).

Then, use your MAS to calculate your predicted VO2max. There are a few different equations published for use, so feel free to use more than one to get a range of a likely VO2max score.

(Equation 1) Predicted VO2 max = –24.4 + 6.0 MAS

(Equation 2) Predicted VO2max = –27.4 + 6.0 MAS

(Equation 3) Predicted VO2max = –35.8 + 6.55 MAS

Is that a good score?

Check how your fitness stacks up in the two tables here:

Should I care about my score?

There is incontrovertible evidence from observational and randomized trials that regular physical activity contributes to the prevention of cardiovascular disease and several other chronic conditions and that it is associated with a reduced risk of premature death. Physical activity can be recommended as a preventive therapy to people of all ages (Warburton et al, 2006). So, get yourself some exercise this weekend, and if you're particularly brave, try a Beep Test!

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Bianco, Antonino & Jemni, Monèm & Thomas, Ewan & Patti, Antonino & Paoli, Antonio & Roque, Joana & Palma, Antonio & Mammina, Caterina & Tabacchi, Garden. (2015). ASSO-FTB.

Howley ET, Bassett DR Jr, Welch HG. Criteria for maximal oxygen uptake: review and commentary. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1995;27(9):1292-1301.

Коlіmесhkоv, Ѕ. (2017). Рhуѕісаl fіtnеѕѕ аѕѕеѕѕmеnt іn сhіldrеn аnd аdоlеѕсеntѕ: а ѕуѕtеmаtіс rеvіеw. Еurореаn Јоurnаl оf Рhуѕісаl Еduсаtіоn аnd Ѕроrt Ѕсіеnсе, 3(4), 65-78. https://www.stk-sport.co.uk/sports-science-research-ejpess-vol-3-2017.html

Léger, L.; Lambert, J.; Goulet, A.; Rowan, C.; Dinelle, Y. (June 1984). "[Aerobic capacity of 6 to 17-year-old Quebecois--20 meter shuttle run test with 1 minute stages]". Journal Canadien des Sciences Appliquées au Sport. 9 (2): 64–69. ISSN 0700-3978. PMID 6733834.

Nanda, B., Balde, J., & Manjunatha, S. (2013). The acute effects of a single bout of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise on cognitive functions in healthy adult males. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, 7(9), 1883–1885. https://doi.org/10.7860/JCDR/2013/5855.3341

Paliczka, V. J., Nichols, A. K., & Boreham, C. A. (1987). A multi-stage shuttle run as a predictor of running performance and maximal oxygen uptake in adults. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 21(4), 163–165. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsm.21.4.163

Stickland, M. K., Petesen, S. R., Bouffard, M. (2003) Prediction of maximal aerobic power from the 20-m multi-stage shuttle run test. Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology. 28(2) 272-282.

Tomkinson, Grant R.; Léger, Luc A.; Olds, Tim S.; Cazorla, Georges (2003). "Secular trends in the performance of children and adolescents (1980-2000): an analysis of 55 studies of the 20m shuttle run test in 11 countries". Sports Medicine. 33 (4): 285–300. doi:10.2165/00007256-200333040-00003. ISSN 0112-1642. PMID 12688827.

Voss, Christine; Sandercock, Gavin (February 2009). "Does the twenty meter shuttle-run test elicit maximal effort in 11- to 16-year-olds?". Pediatric Exercise Science. 21 (1): 55–62. doi:10.1123/pes.21.1.55. ISSN 0899-8493. PMID 19411711.

Warburton, D. E. R., Nicol, C. W., & Bredin, S. S. D. (2006, March 28). Prescribing exercise as preventive therapy. CMAJ. https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.1040750

Xiang, G. Da, Pu, J., Sun, H., Zhao, L., Yue, L., & Hou, J. (2009). Regular aerobic exercise training improves endothelium-dependent arterial dilation in patients with subclinical hypothyroidism. European Journal of Endocrinology, 161(5), 755–761. https://doi.org/10.1530/EJE-09-0395

Website: https://www.verywellfit.com/what-is-vo2-max-3120097#:~:text=The%20average%20sedentary%20male%20will,be%20limited%20by%20certain%20factors.

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