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Bleep and Harvard Step tests

a silver stop watchWhether you are looking to improve your athletic performance or more effectively manage your weight, getting fitter is vital to your success. Here we provide a few popular ways to test your fitness levels. Some of these tests require some equipment and all are best done with a friend or coach to improve the accuracy of the readings.

When you ask us how to lose weight, we always suggest that you work on getting fitter and stronger while eating a healthy diet. But, how can you ensure that you are getting fitter? If you stop progressing in fitness then it may be time to review your health plan. You should test your fitness once a month. Testing weekly is unlikely to provide any clear indication as from week to week, or day to day, our energy levels can fluctuate. A bad day can make it look like you are not getting fitter, when in fact you are.

Multistage Fitness Test

The multi-stage fitness test is the classic cardiovascular fitness test, also known as a bleep test (or beep test). For this you need a bleep test recording and to mark out a 20 meter length to run along. In a bleep test you must run the 20 meter distance before the next bleep sounds. Every minute the bleeps speed up. A good bleep test recording will announce the level you have reached after each bleep. Your fitness level is determined by the bleep level that you reach.

The bleep test will start with a jog pace and increase to a sprint. The initial speed is generally 8.5 km/h, and increases by 0.5 km/h for each level. Level 1 has 7 stages (8.6 seconds between bleeps) and level 10 has 11 stages (5.45 seconds between bleeps). The whole test can take up to 20 minutes and cover almost 5 km if you reach level 21. However,  this is only possible for the super fit. The test stops when you miss the bleep 3 times, then your best level is recorded. By allowing 3 attempts you have the chance to push yourself harder.


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The test is designed to predict the VO2 Max score for an individual. This is an accurate method for testing cardiovascular fitness levels.

As a guide, the British Army requires that men reach level 10.2  and women level 8.1. For men the average score for 21-30 year olds is Level 9, shuttle 3, or 9.3. For women of the same age it is Level 6 shuttle 6, or 6.6.

You can order a bleep test CD from Amazon and other stores. If you search Google for “bleep test MP3″ you should be able to find some free versions.

New: You can stream a beep test to your computer or mobile device using Grooveshark: 20m Shuttle Run Beep Test.mp3

This one has instructions: Pacer Test Modern with music from AC/DC


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However, these still need to be copied to CD, although you could use a laptop if the speakers are loud enough to hear the instructions while running. You can find a free download here on Run The Planet – www.runtheplanet.com/trainingracing/training/bleeptest.asp

Harvard Step Test

The Harvard step tests records heart rate recovery. The fitness test is done by bench stepping at a rate of 30 steps per minute for 5 minutes, or until exhausted. The step should ideally be 50.8 cm high, although for measuring your own progress the exact height is not so important as you will really just be measuring your progress.

After the bench test your heart rate is measured for 30 seconds after 1 minute, 2 minutes, 3 minutes and 5 minutes.

You should record your results on a table like this:

Name HR at 1 min HR at 2 min HR at 3 min
Joe Fit 70 65 55

To calculate your fitness you then use this equation:

100 X test duration in seconds (500 max) / 2 X total heart beats in recovery period

So in the example above, assuming that Joe Fit completed the full 5 minutes, the calculation would be:

= 100 x 300 / 2 x (70+65+55)

= 30000 / 2 x (190)

= 30000 / 380

= 78.9

Your score is then compared to these results:

  • > 90 = excellent
  • 80-89 = good
  • 65-79 = high average
  • 55-64 = low average
  • < 55 poor

This makes Joe Fit high average, almost good.

These two methods are by no means the only way to measure your fitness. If you are a runner then the best and easiest way is to simply record your time over a set distance. You can also test your sprint fitness and endurance fitness by timing yourself over 200 meters and 1 mile on a regular basis.

Keeping track of your fitness progress is a great way to stay motivated. Compete against yourself and try to beat your personal best to make yourself as best as possible!

More like this in the Fitness section

  11 comments for “Bleep and Harvard Step tests

  1. aris
    August 14, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    Hi..im 24 years old..my previous weight was 200 pnds..5’5..im doing ur suggested circuit training but i base it on my fitness levels..my diet is usually eggs for breakfast..fish or chicken and some veggies on lunch..and veggies or tuna for dinner..with fruits as snacks..my weight training is done on MWFSu..and cardio or HIIT/circuit in between..been doing this for three straight weeks and d results are amazing..im down to 194lbs..and aiming on loosing 1-2 pounds a week..my circuit is only star jumps..dips
    Squats..press ups..doing it 20 secs work 10secs rest 4sets..anything u can suggest to make my journey more rewarding?meaning better results? Am i doing it correctly?

  2. MotleyHealth
    August 14, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    Hi Aris, sounds like you are doing well! 1-2 pound a week weight loss is a good target, and you are meeting that at the moment, so do not change the plan until it stops working. So long as you keep working on getting fitter you will keep losing fat. You are doing a good combination of cardio, bodyweight exercises and weight training. keep testing your fitness, keep eating healthy.

    As you get fitter and lose more fat you may find that you need to start to increase the amount you eat to provide fuel for exercise. Once you are doing 60 minutes at a high intensity your body will be burning calories quicker.

  3. aris
    August 14, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    Hi Motley,

    Thanks for your prompt reply..I’ll continue my program and icrease intensity accordingly..I would like to add some exercise to my 4 exrcise circuit. I feel like my body is getting the hang of it. I’ll be testing my fitness as I progress and will check here from time to time for your on time suggestions. Really appreciate the help.

  4. aris
    August 19, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    Hi Motley,

    Aris again, Here are the results for the past two weeks.
    2weeks ago:
    Weight: 200lbs / 90.9kg
    Fat Index: 41.00%
    BMI: 33.3
    Previous goal: 196lbs

    Today: August 18, 2012
    Weight: 196.4lbs / 89.1kg
    BMI: 33.1

    Goal: Sept,1 2012
    Weight: 192.4lbs / 87.5kg
    BMI: 32.3

    I was able to push my warm up jogging from 3mins to 7mins. And now I’m able to complete my 4 circuit HIIT. So am I right to believe that my fitness level is increasing?

  5. MotleyHealth
    August 19, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    Sounds like it. Keep up the good work, keep forcing yourself to get fitter.

  6. aris
    September 1, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    Hi Motley,

    Aris here..I met my goal of 192lbs for sept 1..I’m even at 191.8 to be exact..Though I’m gravely concerned about my weightloss..My fat percentage remained the same but my lean muscle mass was reduced by almost 4 pounds..Am I doing something wrong? Is my caloric restriction affecting muscle growth? My lifts are still getting heavier and I don’t feel week. My body is getting fitter and I can fit on some of my old clothes. Physically I seem to be loosing fat but on the fat analyzer it says otherwise..Can you give me suggestions on my diet and my routine. I want to hold on to my muscle mass and not my fats. Please help..

  7. MotleyHealth
    September 2, 2012 at 1:40 am

    Hi Aris, take some measurements – your waist, thighs, biceps, chest etc. If you are getting stronger and fitter then it sounds like there is nothing to worry about, other than the accuracy of your fat analyzer. I trust you are getting plenty of protein and re-fuelling (eating) after your workouts?

  8. aris
    September 2, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    Hi Thanks for your prompt reply.All my 5 meals in a day has protein on it..mainly 2-3 eggs for breakfast and not more than a handful of sweet potato. Lunch will be either chicken or beef. Dinner is either fish and veggies..snacks in between will be fruits.of Course im practicing portion control..Yes I’m lifting heavier and feeling lighter..Maybe it’s the accuracy of the fat analyzer..your website has been a lot of help. I have a website which im checking out right now which is stronglifts.com..Their only suggesting 2 sets of work out that will be alternating with one day rest in between..only consisting of compound exercises..Deadlifts..squats..bench press first day..second set is squats, barbell row,overhead press and dips..Do you think this will be effective?

  9. MotleyHealth
    September 2, 2012 at 10:16 pm

    Yes, that too can be effective. We have a push / pull split workout that may provide a similar workout.

  10. aris
    October 23, 2012 at 12:53 am

    Hi Motley, I’ve been in my weightloss journey for almost 3 1/2 months now and my improvements are phenomenal.. I’m now at 176lbs. previously 200lbs since I started. All thanks to your site and Stronglifts 5X5 which helped me a lot. Are there any tips you can give me which can help me capitalize on my weightloss

  11. MotleyHealth
    October 23, 2012 at 10:13 pm

    Hi Aris, well done for your success so far. Just keep up the good work. Work on getting fitter and stronger, and keep that diet really clean.

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