A beep test is one of the best exercises for testing your fitness level. Specifically, this multi-stage test measures maximum oxygen uptake and cardiovascular health. Max oxygen uptake (VO2 max) determines how much oxygen the body uses when working out at maximum effort. More importantly, this test is used by the military, police, first responders, trainers, and coaches to determine one's physical fitness level.
But can you perform a beep test on the treadmill? That's one of the many things we'll be looking at in this guide. In addition, we'll look at some limitations and benefits of training for the beep test on the treadmill.
First, here's what you need to know about the beep test!
What’s the Beep Test?
The bleep or beep test is also known as the 20m shuttle run, multi-stage fitness, or PACER test. It's a popular test that Luc Leger originally developed. Moreover, it's used across the world by schools, military institutions including the British Army, and sports clubs to improve cardio health and determine fitness levels.
By definition, the beep test refers to a continuous incremental maximum running test that is conducted up & down a 20m course. The fundamental proposition of the test is that there is an increase in beep test running speed almost every minute. In addition, the participants must try to run a certain number of laps in-between pre-programmed beeps. In this regard, a beep test audio track that contains the beeps is usually played to give the participants an audio market they can keep in time with.
The older bleep test from the 1980s used a 400m outdoor track to perform the 20m shuttle run. More notably, the aim was to run between two spots 20 m apart on the alert of a recorded beep for a specific period of time, usually 1 minute. The frequency of the beeps increases as this test continues, forcing the participants to pick up the running pace.
Interestingly, the original beep test is still being used today. However, other versions like Progressive Aerobic Cardio Endurance Run (PACER) are commonly used in schools and training facilities. Besides, there are 2 types of PACER tests; 15m and 20m variants.
In essence, the beep test 20 meters PACER covers a total distance of about 4740 m and takes around 21 minutes to complete. Contrarily, the 15m variant has almost the same cumulative time but covers a total beep test distance of around 4725 m.
Importance of the BEEP Test
As I already mentioned, the beep test helps to assess aerobic fitness. It's commonly used with experienced exercisers like athletes training for a competition. Performing the test before, during, and at the start of the training will help you assess the effectiveness of your training program. At the same time, it will help you determine how much your cardio fitness has improved.
In addition, this simple but powerful test allows you to assess your maximal aerobic power (VO2 Max). VO2 Max shows how effectively your body delivers and uses oxygen to produce energy when engaging in physical exercise. According to the NSCA (National Strength & Conditioning Association), knowing your maximal aerobic power is crucial since consuming more energy helps you produce more energy that aids in muscle contraction.
Can You Perform a BEEP Test on The Treadmill?
Although you can't replicate the beep test entirely on the treadmill, you can train for one on the machine. This will improve your fitness levels and increase your stamina. The treadmill can help you recreate about 99 percent of the conditions involved in a beep test, including the forward momentum and running speed.
However, the result of practicing your beep test on a treadmill will not be directly comparable to the results of the original test. As an example, you can't copy the number of turns and decelerations you'll perform during the test.
Overall, the treadmill is a great piece of fitness testing equipment for beep test training since it has several benefits. So, let's start from there!
Benefits of Using the Treadmill for Beep Test Training
Safe running surface
Treadmills are equipped with a safe moving belt to provide a uniform running surface for physical exercises. As a result, you can easily focus on your running technique without being concerned about the position of the next pothole, like in outdoor running.
Ensures personal safety
Treadmill running ensures personal safety since it allows you to train in your home or at your favorite gym. This makes it safer than outdoor running, especially if you prefer training at night or very early in the morning.
Allows you to control the pace
The ability to control the pace while running helps to improve your beep test score. Fortunately, a treadmill gives you full control of your running speed. That way, you can include specific workouts that address the different speeds involved in a beep test.
Suitable for poor weather conditions
Poor outdoor weather conditions are major challenges for exercisers who want to maintain consistency in their workout routines. Thankfully, a treadmill is a great option if you live in a region that has such conditions. In addition, it will allow you to include running into your beep test workout regardless of the weather conditions since it's performed indoors.
Limitations of Beep Test Training on a Treadmill
While it's possible to train for a beep test on the treadmill, this type of training has some limitations you need to be aware of. They include:
Potential safety hazards
The bleep test is maximal, meaning you've to experience an increased workload until you feel tired and exhausted. In other words, the exercise forces you to push your body until it can't keep up with the rate of energy requirements.
Performing that type of exercise on the treadmill can be dangerous. As an example, treadmill running until the point of exhaustion can make you fall over on the tread-belt, causing you a severe injury. To prevent such issues from happening, make sure you've got someone watching you while training. Also, attach a safety cord between yourself and the machine to serve as a safety anchor.
Lack of Forwarding momentum
When running outside, one physically pushes their body forward. However, this forward momentum is almost absent when you're training on the treadmill. Instead, the treadmill belt moves backward, so you're not moving. This alters the forces required to run, thus affecting the outcome of your Beep Test.
To fix this problem, add an incline to your treadmill workout. This will help to compensate for the lack of forwarding momentum, but it will not fix it completely.
No replication for deceleration and turning
In essence, performing a beep test outside requires you to vary your speed by decelerating to stop or accelerating to meet the mark. Also, the training involves taking sharp corners to run the other way. Unfortunately, these conditions are difficult to replicate perfectly on the treadmill.
To compensate for the lack of turns on the treadmill, add extra time in your training. Plus, practice running on flat surfaces with turns to address turning. This will help you develop conditioning and performance that will ensure the success of your Beep test.
All in all, treadmill training is one of the most accurate simulations of the Beep test conditions you'll get without completing an actual test simulation.
How to Do the Beep Test on a Treadmill
The best way to prepare for your bleep test is to perform it on an indoor gym floor with lines or an outdoor/ indoor track with a straightway. However, if you've no access to these facilities, you can simulate the training on the treadmill. Besides, treadmills are accessible since most people have them at home these days.
That said, here are the steps you need to follow to simulate a Beep test on the treadmill effectively:
Replicate the beep test speed & conditions
The best thing about treadmill training is that it allows you to choose the speed to recreate different running conditions. That flexibility makes it easy to replicate the standard bleep test. However, before you start, you need to determine the best incline & running speed for the 1st level of this test.
Fortunately, universally recommended beep test standards make it easy to set everything up. First, set the treadmill to a running speed of 8km/h and an incline level at1%. These settings mimic outdoor running and simulate the same level of energy requirements.
More importantly, these settings simulate the 1st phase of this multi-stage fitness test that will cover a beep test distance of about 140m in 1 minute. Also, look for a beep test audio file that simulates the beeps to make your training experience more realistic.
Increase the pace at 1-min intervals
After the 1st level, you need to increase the speed at specific intervals, usually 1 min. Interestingly, some treadmills can allow you to develop a pre-programmed workout plan. This will allow you to set up the speed intervals beforehand, making your workout easier to perform. However, if your treadmill doesn't allow you to pre-program the settings, you can increase the speed manually.
You should increase the treadmill speed by 0.5 km/h after every minute. This will replicate the beep test's speed increase as the time between the beeps decreases. For example, the maximum speed usually reaches 18.5 km/h for the 20m bleep test.
Top Tips for BEEP Test Training on the Treadmill
- Include a combination of long, slow running, and faster beep test intervals. To achieve this, the American Council on Exercise suggests both LISS (low-intensity steady state) & HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) when exercising to increase aerobic capacity.
- Don't train the week before the beep test. Instead, train about 6 weeks before the test to give you enough time for the required endurance.
- Hydrate constantly while training to keep your fluid levels up.
- Always stretch & warm up before the training, and cool down properly after exercising.
- Start slowly and increase the intensity & length of your workout sessions, especially if you've not trained frequently in the past. Also, make sure you consult your doctor before starting the training.
- Perform some strengthening and toning workouts like crunches and press-ups towards the end of your runs.
Final Words Performing a beep test on the treadmill is challenging, but it's one of the most effective aerobic tests for determining your fitness level. Besides, you don't even need the audible beeps when training on a treadmill. Even better, the machine comes equipped with buttons and a console to help you know the specific speed you are running.
In addition, a treadmill allows you to train in all weather conditions and at any time of the day. It supports several different speed workouts that you can try to increase your VO2 max.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How long does the beep test take?
The bleep test takes about 6 min and 51 sec to finish as the speed increases consecutively at each level. In terms of distance, you'll have covered about 1120m by the time you get to level 7.5.
2. What does the beep test measure?
A beep test measures VO2 Max (maximal oxygen uptake) and cardiovascular fitness.
3. What is the best beep test app?
Networks is one of the most comprehensive Beep Test apps. It allows users to perform different beep tests and even design their tests.
Alternatively, you can try Bleep Test Lite, which is easy to use. Besides, it displays real-time beep test progression, maximal oxygen intake, current stage, and total distance covered while running.
4. Who holds the beep test world record?
Jose Romero is the Beep test's world record holder, having completed a 17.1 beep test. He was a VFL/ AFL player at Western Bulldogs (1995 - 2001) and North Melbourne (1988 - 1994).