If you're preparing for a cardiovascular fitness test, you might be wondering if you can simulate the beep test on a treadmill. While this is not the ideal way to train, you can use cardio equipment like the treadmill to help you get ready for a multi-stage fitness test.
Yes, you can use the treadmill to train for a beep test, but it is not ideal. Training outdoors or using a gymnasium floor with lines will give you the most realistic setting.
What is the Beep Test?
The beep test is a multistage fitness test that measures aerobic fitness. It is most commonly used with athletes or other experienced exercisers training for an event or competition. Performing the beep test at the beginning of training, during training and before an event can give you an idea of how effective your training program is and how much you've improved your cardiovascular fitness.
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The beep test is an older fitness test from the 1980s that used a 400-meter outdoor track to perform a 20-meter shuttle run. The goal is to run between two spots 20 meters apart on the signal of a recorded beep for a set time, typically one minute. As the test progresses, the beeps increase in frequency, and you pick up the pace of running.
While the original test is still in use, other versions such as the PACER (Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run) are also commonly seen in training facilities and schools. The PACER uses 15-meter and 20-meter shuttle runs at increasing speeds to test maximal aerobic fitness and power.
Testing maximal aerobic power, or VO2max can help you determine how effectively your body can deliver and use oxygen for producing energy. According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), knowing you maximal volume of oxygen is important because the more oxygen you can consume, the more energy you can produce to help the muscles contract.
Read more: Exercises for Aerobic Capacity
Simulate Beep Test on Treadmill
The best way to train and prepare for a beep test is to practice it on an indoor gymnasium floor that has lines or an indoor or outdoor track with a straightway, especially if this is where you will take your test. But if access to either of those options is not available, you can modify beep test training on a treadmill.
When using the treadmill, the priority should be that it includes a combination of faster intervals and bouts of long, slow running. To accomplish this, the American Council on Exercise recommends both high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and low-intensity steady state (LISS) training when working to improve aerobic capacity.
To mimic the energy demands of running outdoors, set the incline at 1 percent when trying to simulate the beep test on a treadmill. Your speed will typically start at 8.5km/hr and increase each minute to match the beep test progression.
Read more: Sub-Maximal Aerobic Fitness Tests
While you can train at speeds similar to what you would run the beep test at, the treadmill doesn't allow you to practice the acceleration and deceleration that happens when performing a shuttle-type run. You also miss out on practicing the turns required when you reach each line and then turn around. A good rule of thumb, if you're using the treadmill to train, is to get outdoors or to a gymnasium that is similar to the testing environment at least a few times before performing the beep test.
- National Strength and Conditioning Association: "Aerobic Endurance Measures and Analyses"
- The American Council on Exercise: "8 Things to Know About Aerobic Capacity and How to Improve It"
- Biology of Sport: "Better Economy in Field Running Than On the Treadmill: Evidence From High Level Distance Runners"