What is the beep test and how do I do it?

The beep test (or the multi stage fitness test, as it is also known) is used by police forces, fire brigades, the military and sports teams to test a person's cardiovascular fitness, or maximum oxygen uptake. It is an ideal test, as it is a maximal test that will take you to your fitness limit.

The test is made up of 20 meter shuttle runs and these are completed in time with a beep. The times in between each beep get shorter as you progress up through the levels. Each level lasts 60 seconds and once you have reached the end of the level, 3 beeps will indicate the start of a new level. The maximum level to test fitness used by UK police forces is usually 5.4, but this level will increase if the test is being used to test the fitness of officers applying for specialist roles.

A pre-recorded audio will indicate the start of the test and the beeps will generally stop if it’s the end of the test, no athlete can continue or if a person gets to the end of the test, which is between levels 18-21 depending on the recording. Only supreme athletes will generally get to the end of the test.

If starting on a new fitness programme you should make sure that you have a reasonable level of fitness, and if you have any pre-existing medical conditions you should see your GP first.

How to do the beep test?

If you can find enough space you can use a tape measure and mark out a distance between two cones of 20 meters. You can obtain a recording of the bleep test by going onto the IOS App store or Android store. Alternatively use a tape measure to set up two cones 20 meters away from one another and do as many shuttle runs as you can within one minute.

I have completed the beep test many times and the best way to pass it is to build your cardiovascular fitness before hand.

You can follow this programme:

  • As well as doing 20 meter shuttle runs, try to jog 2-3 times a week.

  • Plot a route near your home. Make it about a mile long and fairly flat.

  • Start by walking the route at a good pace to get your heart rate going, then pick up the pace to bring on a light sweat.

  • As you get used to walking a mile on this route start to do intervals of jogging/walking. Pick a point ahead of you and jog to this point, then when you reach the point, walk at a good pace to another point ahead of you.

  • As you get used to the interval running gradually lengthen the distances that you jog and shorten the walks. Aim to push yourself to be able to jog a mile at your best pace.

  • When you get to the stage that you can jog a mile comfortably then you should have plenty of energy in reserve for the beep test. Any shuttle runs you can do will also assist in progressing your fitness.

More information on the beep test can be found on the BBC news website.

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