How to Train for the Beep Test on a Treadmill

If you want to really test your fitness level, look no further than a Beep test. This multi-stage test is designed to measure cardiovascular health and maximum oxygen uptake (VO2 max). VO2 max is so important to determine because it measures how much oxygen your body uses during exercise at max effort.

man running on treadmill

It’s often used by coaches and trainers to determine the level of fitness for an athlete. It’s also used by police, military, and first responders. Call it the Beep Test or the Bleep Test, or even the Pacer Test, just get ready for some serious work.

What is the bleep test?

There are 21 levels to a standard Beep Test. Each level consists of a different number of shuttle sprints. The test is performed when a candidate runs between two markets places 20 meters apart at an increasing pace, which is indicated by the beeping sound. The test is complete when the candidate can no longer keep the pace, or when level 21 is reached. Your score on a Beep Test is the level and number of shuttles reached before missing a beep. This information can then be used to calculate your overall VO2 max and your fitness level.

Who uses the Beep Test?

The Beep Test is used by a variety of organisations globally. These include sport clubs, universities, militaries, and police forces. Because the test is such a solid indication of cardio endurance, it’s become an important component in measuring overall physical fitness. It’s also one of the most applied health-related fitness tests for children and adolescents. Depending on the organisation using the test, there are certain criteria which must be met, with scales for male and female candidates.

Replicating the bleep test on a treadmill

When preparing for a Beep Test, a treadmill can be a surprisingly accessible with many people having a treadmill at home these days. Using the most current EuroFit standards, you can easily adapt a treadmill program to meet the criteria for a Beep Test and train effectively.

The current standard begins with a speed of 8.0 km/h for the first level then goes to 9.0 km/h for the second level. Each level after is increased by 0.5 km/p. The number of shuttles per level is set to keep each at one minute a piece. This is the version typically used by organisations in the UK, and will provide excellent training framework to help assess overall fitness levels.

Keep increasing the pace until you’re unable to continue. Recording your results and committing to repeating this test often will help you improve.

Using a treadmill for training means you won’t have to deal with unfavourable weather conditions. You’ll have a safe running surface on which to train, and you have the benefit of clearly seeing your pace. This is instrumental especially if running isn’t your strongest fitness activity, as pacing is essential for anyone who wants to earn their best Beep Test score. The other benefit of treadmill training is that you’re going to be safe, especially if your schedule requires you to train at night.

What’s missing?

While training for a Beep Test on a treadmill is possible, it’s not often the best recommended training option. That’s because the outside version requires you to turn sharp corners and vary your speed either by accelerating to meet your mark or decelerating to stop. These are things that can’t be well replicated on a treadmill. The progression for the increase in speed can be achieved but it might not prepare you very well for the real thing. However, provided you have allocated enough time for your training, it’s possible to develop technique and conditioning that will ensure your Beep Test success.

Forward momentum is also a challenge on the treadmill, since it’s nearly absent. When you’re running outside, you are physically pushing your body forward. When you’re on a treadmill, you’re not so much as moving yourself forward as the belt is moving backward. That means that the force required to run is altered, which can absolutely affect your Beep Test outcome. Adding additional incline to your treadmill training can help to compensate for this lack of forward momentum, though it won’t remove it completely.

HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is an excellent training modality to incorporate into your programming when preparing for the Beep Test. Anything in a HIIT format will help you push your body to its aerobic limits and then learn how to recover quickly to repeat the action again

What else can you do?

If the treadmill training approach doesn’t sound super appealing, don’t worry. There are plenty of other ways to prepare for the Beep Test.

Flat surfaces make ideal Beep Training testing grounds because they’re easy to run on, but don’t forget to factor in distance for stopping. Two or more markers like traffic cones will help you visually see where 20 meters ends. If you’re doing the Beep Test on your own, there are plenty of apps that can assist in the testing options.

When running outside to prepare for the Beep Test, this basic framework can help you get prepared quickly.

Start by running 100 meters at 80% of your maximum speed, then walk 100m to recover. Increase the running by 100m each round, but keep your recovery walks to 100m each time.

The rest period remains at 100m to keep your heart rate elevated but not going too fast. It also helps to mimic the cardio efforts of the Beep Test, which starts out fairly easy and increasingly becomes more difficult in the end.

Summary

Unequivocally, the Beep Test is one of the hardest aerobic tests. It’s challenging but it’s effective in determining a true level of fitness. When preparing for the Beep Test, keep in mind that a well-rounded approach to your training will serve you best.

Make sure you include interval training and sprints into your fitness programming. Long steady running is beneficial for overall fitness endurance, but short bursts of intense activity will best prepare you for the Beep Test, since it focuses on aerobic capacity.

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