20m multistage fitness test

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The 20m multistage fitness test (MSFT) is a commonly used maximal running aerobic fitness test. It is also known as the 20 meter shuttle run test, beep or bleep test among other names.

Equipment Required: Flat, non-slip surface, marking cones, 20m measuring tape, beep test audio, music player, recording sheets.

procedure: This test involves continuous running between two lines 20m apart in time to recorded beeps. For this reason the test is also often called the 'beep' or 'bleep' test. The participants stand behind one of the lines facing the second line, and begin running when instructed by the recording. The speed at the start is quite slow. The subject continues running between the two lines, turning when signaled by the recorded beeps. After about one minute, a sound indicates an increase in speed, and the beeps will be closer together. This continues each minute (level). If the line is reached before the beep sounds, the subject must wait until the beep sounds before continuing. If the line is not reached before the beep sounds, the subject is given a warning and must continue to run to the line, then turn and try to catch up with the pace within two more ‘beeps’. The test is stopped if the subject fails to reach the line (within 2 meters) for two consecutive ends after a warning.

scoring: The athlete's score is the level and number of shuttles (20m) reached before they were unable to keep up with the recording. Record the last level completed (not necessarily the level stopped at). This norms table below is based on personal experience, and gives you a very rough idea of what level score would be expected for adults, using the standard Australian beep test version. There is a more detailed table of norms for the beep test.

men women
excellent > 13 > 12
very good 11 - 13 10 - 12
good 9 - 11 8 - 10
average 7 - 9 6 - 8
poor 5 - 7 4 - 6
very poor < 5 < 4

Target Population: This test is suitable for sports teams and school groups, but not for populations in which a maximal exercise test would be contraindicated. validity: The correlation to actual VO2max scores is high (see some of these references). There are published VO2max score equivalents for each level reached.

Reliability: The reliability of the beep test would depend on how strictly the test is run and the practice allowed for the subjects. There are also other factors which can affect performance, which need to be controlled if possible. See point below.

Advantages: Large groups can perform this test all at once for minimal costs. Also, the test continues to maximum effort unlike many other tests of endurance capacity.

Disadvantages: Practice and motivation levels can influence the score attained, and the scoring can be subjective. As the test is often conducted outside, the environmental conditions can affect the results.

Comments: : To increase reliability, you can give consistent instructions prior to the test and provide the same encouragement and apply the same strictness to when to finish the test.

Factors to Consider: Although the beep test is primarily a fitness test of the aerobic energy system, there are a range of other factors that can affect performance in the test and are are important to consider. These include: running efficiency and turning technique, anaerobic capacity, motivation and social dynamics, motor skills and cognitive ability (especially in children), environmental differences, clothing and running surfaces, test familiarization and instructions, the purpose and context of testing

Other Considerations:
  1. This test goes by many names, though you need to be careful as the different names also may signify that these are different versions of the test. Therefore you need to be wary when comparing results or comparing to norms.
  2. This test is a maximal test, which requires a reasonable level of fitness. It is not recommended for recreational athletes or people with health problems, injuries or low fitness levels.
  3. One way to ensure that all athletes push themselves in the test is for them to wear a heart rate monitor. You can then compare their maximum heart rate during the test to their predicted or measured maximum to determine if they have 'maxed out'.
Variations and Other Beep Type Tests (more on Variations):

There are several versions of the test, but one commonly used version has an initial running velocity of 8.5 km/hr, which increases by 0.5 km/hr each minute. Another version starts at 8.0 km/hr, then up to 9.0 km/hr for level 2 and then increases by 0.5 km/hr (more on test variations, and see Beep test video examples).

  1. Aero Test — similar to the description above
  2. PACER test — similar to above, part of the FitnessGram and Brockport test batteries.
  3. Yo-Yo Endurance Test — similar to above, part of the yo-yo series of tests.
  4. Birtwell 40m Shuttle — similar to the description above
  5. Multistage Shuttle Swim Test — designed for water polo players.
  6. Intermittent Shuttle Test — another one for water polo players.
  7. Swimming Beep Test — for swimmers.
  8. multistage field test — for wheelchair users.
  9. 10m Beep Test — designed for children with cerebral palsy (CP)
  10. Walk Test — for elderly participants walking around a rectangle in time to the beeps.
  11. Miller 20m Run — hybrid of a timed run test and the beep test.