Multi-stage fitness test
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The multi-stage fitness test, also known as the pacer test or beep test, is a series of stages that have different tasks sometimes used by sports coaches and trainers to estimate an athlete's VO2 max (maximum oxygen uptake). The most common variation of the multi-stage fitness test is the FitnessGram/Cooper PACER test. The test is especially useful for players of sports such as rugby, football, Australian rules football, Gaelic football, hurling, hockey, netball, handball, tennis, squash, and fitness testing in schools and colleges plus many other sports; employed by many international sporting teams as an accurate test of cardiovascular fitness, one of the more important components of physical fitness. The test was created in 1982 by Luc Léger, University of Montreal and published in 1983 with a starting speed of 8 km/h and stages of 2 min duration. The test was re-published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology in 1988 in its present form with a starting speed of 8.5 km/h and 1 min stages under the name "The multistage 20 metre shuttle run test for aerobic fitness". Result equivalences between slightly modified versions are well explained by Tomkinson et al. in 2003.
The test involves running continuously between two points that are 20 m apart from side to side. The runs are synchronized with a pre-recorded audio tape, CD or laptop software, which plays beeps at set intervals. As the test proceeds, the interval between each successive beep decreases, forcing the athletes to increase their speed over the course of the test until it is impossible to keep in sync with the recording (or, on extremely rare occasions, until the athlete completes the test). Many people who test people using the multi-stage fitness test allow one level to beep before the person makes the line, but if the person being tested does not make the next interval, the most recent level they completed is their final score.
The recording is typically structured into 21 'levels', each lasting around 62 s. Usually, the interval of beeps is calculated as requiring a speed at the start of 8.5 km/h (see format table), increasing by 0.5 km/h with each level thereafter. The progression from one level to the next is signaled by 3 quick beeps. The highest level attained before failing to keep up is recorded as the score for that test.
The original beep test was initially available on audio tape format. A problem with the tape was that it could stretch over time, or the tape player would play at inconsistent speed, making the timing between beeps inaccurate. Most versions of the tape had a one-minute recorded interval for calibrating the tape and tape player. Digital audio formats replaced the tapes, but checks were still required on the CD/player due to some tone controls possibly affecting the playback speed.
Inexpensive beep test software is now popular due to modern electronic devices having excellent and consistent timing accuracy. The software generally runs on a portable electronic computer such as a tablet, phone or laptop, making the test easy to organise for teams, and also tracks player fitness over a season. The contemporary accepted format starts at 8.5 km/h with levels of 1 minute as described in Leger's and Lambert's paper of 1988.
|Expected male age
to complete level
|Expected female age
to complete level
|Organization||Type of organization||Country||Minimum level attained||Comments|
|Western Australian Rugby Union Referees||Sport||Australia||10.5 (Premier Grade), 9.5 (Reserve Grade)|
|Rugby Football referee||Sport||England (RFU)||10.4 for development squads, 12+ for elite referees||Source: |
|British Army Officer||Military||UK||10.2 (male), 8.1 (female)||Source: |
|Royal Air Force||Military||UK||9.10 (male), 7.2 (female)||Source: |
|Royal Air Force Regiment||Military||UK||11.7 (male)||Source: |
|Royal Marines||Military||UK||13 Marine, 15 Officer||Source: |
|Airservices Australia||Aviation rescue and fire fighting||Australia||9.6||Source: |
|Metropolitan Fire Brigade (Melbourne)||Fire/emergency response||Australia||9.6||Source: |
|Royal Military College of Canada||Military||Canada||9.5 (male), 7.5 (female)||Source: |
|Scottish Police||Police||UK||9.2 (male), 7.3 (female) (aged 18–29) - 15 Metre shuttle only||Source: [dead link]|
|South Australia Police||Police||Australia||9.04 (male), 6.10 (female)||Age 18-29. Varies by age |
|Queensland Fire and Rescue Service||Fire/emergency response||Australia||8.7||Source: |
|Western Australia Police||Police||Australia||8.1 to 10.1+ (male), 6.1 to 7.1 (female)||Source: |
|Western Australia Fire & Rescue Service||Fire||Australia||9.6 +||Source: |
|Australian Army||Military||Australia||7.5||Preliminary Fitness Test Standard required prior to enlistment.|
|Australian Special Forces||Military||Australia||10.1||Preliminary Fitness Test Standard required prior to direct recruitment scheme.|
|New Zealand Defence Force||Military||New Zealand||Navy : 7.10 Airforce : 7.10 Army : 8.8||Minimum Fitness Level. Source: 'Get Fit' Application |
|French Foreign Legion||Military||France||7||Source: |
|Royal Australian Navy||Military||Australia||6.1||Source: |
|Royal Australian Air Force||Military||Australia||6.5||Source: |
|Australian Federal Police||Police||Australia||6.5||Source: |
|Ontario Provincial Police||Police||Canada||7||Source: |
|Queensland Police Service||Police||Australia||6.3 to 9.4 (male), 5.1 to 7.5 (female)||Source: |
|Canadian Forces||Military||Canada||6.0 (male), 4.0 (female) (under 35)||Replaced in 2013 by FORCE Evaluation|
|Canadian Special Operations Regiment||Military||Canada||9-10 for passing score, 11-12 for average score, 13+ for highest score||Source:  Found on page 22|
|English and Welsh Police||Police||UK||5.4 (general roles) to 10.5||Source: |
|Victoria Police||Police||Australia||5.1 (updated 23/7/2012 to new standards)||All ages|
|New South Wales Police Force||Police||Australia||7.1||7.1 initial entry, various specialist units have higher requirements. Source: |
|Royal Canadian Air Cadets| Paramilitary Youth Program||Paramilitary Youth Program||Canada||Depends on age||Part of the new 'Fitness and Incentive' program. Used to track improvements in fitness level. Fitness badges may be earned.|
|Royal Canadian Army Cadets| Paramilitary Youth Program||Paramilitary Youth Program||Canada||Depends on age||Part of the new 'Fitness and Incentive' program. Used to track improvements in fitness level. Fitness badges may be earned.|
|Royal Canadian Sea Cadets||Paramilitary Youth Program||Canada||Depends on age||Part of the new 'Fitness and Incentive' program. Used to track improvements in fitness level. Fitness badges may be earned.|
|Blue Bulls Rugby Referee Association||Rugby referee training program||South Africa||9.9 for entry-level qualification||minimum level increases as a candidate move up in the ranks to ensure that a proper level of fitness is maintained|
|Slovenian Ice hockey referee Association||Ice hockey referee training program||Slovenia||9.0 for passing||Part of the new Fitness program. Used to track referee fitness improvements off the ice off the season.|
|Swedish Army, Norrbotten Regiment I19||Mechanized Brigade Reconnaissance||Sweden||9.5 for entry-level qualification||Each applicant will perform the test after completing basic training|
Like any other highly intensive physical activity, the beep test poses health risks for individuals with health issues such as asthma, anemia, and/or hypothyroid, among other issues.
In popular culture
- Wood, Robert. "Beep Test Variations". Topend Sports Network. Topend Sports Network. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
- TESTING PHYSICAL FITNESS, EUROFIT Experimental Battery PROVISIONAL HANDBOOK, STRASBOURG 1983 http://www.bitworks-engineering.co.uk/linked/eurofit%20provisional%20handbook%20leger%20beep%20test%201983.pdf
- Léger, L.A.; Mercier, D.; Gadoury, C.; Lambert, J. (1988). "The multistage 20 metre shuttle run test for aerobic fitness". J Sports Sci. 6 (2): 93–101. doi:10.1080/02640418808729800. PMID 3184250.
- "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 Med. 33 (4): 285–300. 2003. doi:10.2165/00007256-200333040-00003. PMID 12688827.
- Flouris, A D; Metsios, G S; Koutedakis, Y (2005). "Enhancing the efficacy of the 20 m multistage shuttle run test". Br J Sports Med. 39: 166–170. doi:10.1136/bjsm.2004.012500.
- Léger, L.; Mercier, D. (1984). "Gross energy cost of horizontal treadmill and track running.". Sports Med. 1 (4): 270–7. doi:10.2165/00007256-198401040-00003. PMID 6390604.
- Mariam Ghaemi. "Video: RAF Honington shows strength in numbers during bleep test record breaker". East Anglian Daily Times.