Comparing the Beep Test and the Yo-Yo Test

The multi-stage 20 shuttle run test, commonly known as the beep test, is a popular field test of aerobic fitness. The yo-yo test, inspired by the beep test and having a lot of similarities, is another field test for team sports athletes which is becoming more and more popular.

Similarities of the Beep and Yo-Yo Tests

Both the beep and yo-yo tests are shuttle runs, which require the athlete to run back and forth over a 20m course in time to audio signals. In both tests, athletes run to exhaustion. The scores are usually recorded as the level (or stage) achieved and a certain number of shuttles. Each test can be converted to a VO2max score.

Differences between the Beep and Yo-Yo Tests

There is one version of the yo-yo test that is essentially the same as the beep test (the yo-yo endurance test level 1), but most yo-yo tests have a rest period after every 40m (2 x 20m) distance covered, compared to the beep test which is a continuous test. There are different levels of the yo-yo test, designed for different fitness abilities of the athlete, which can also be used to assess different levels of anaerobic fitness.

The original objective of the beep test is to measure aerobic fitness and predict VO2max, whilst the Yo-Yo test was designed to be more specific to the many intermittent-type team sports, and test the ability to repeatedly perform sprint intervals over an extended period.

Comparisons of the Beep and Yo-Yo Tests

There is interest in comparing the results of these tests as some sporting teams and athletes have changed from using the beep test to the yo-yo test, while other teams may be using one test and want to compare results with another.

Comparing VO2max

While there are differences between the running of each test as listed above, there are formula to convert results of each of them to VO2max scores: from the beep test (convert to VO2max) and yo-yo test (convert to VO2max). Theoretically, it is possible to compare the two tests by converting each to a VO2max score, but is such a comparison valid?

Here is a comparison of the VO2max scores of the yo-yo test (YYIR1) and beep test, listing the results which give the same VO2max score. For example, a VO2max of 52 ml/kg/min can be achieved by getting 18.3 on the yo-yo IR1, or 11.6 on the beep test.

YYIR1 Beep VO2max (ml/kg/min)
9-1 7-2 37
13-4 7-10 40
15-1 8-9 43
16-2 9-8 46
17-3 10-7 49
18-3 11-6 52
19-4 12-5 55
20-5 13-3 58
21-6 14-1 61
22-7 14-13 64
23-8 15-11 67

Comparing the scores this way may seem simple and easy, however, it may not be appropriate. Each test is not just measuring VO2max. The yo-yo test relies more on anaerobic energy system and the scores in this test will be affected by the athletes' anaerobic fitness. Other aspects of fitness are affecting both scores, such as running speed and turning ability.

A good correlation has been found between the scores of the two tests. Tumijan et al. (2014) converted the results of both to VO2max, and found a positive strong relationship in junior rugby players. While there was a good correlation, meaning that those having a high score in one test were more likely to have a high score in the other, the actual VO2max values varied. The average 20-m multistage fitness test (ave 33.31 ± 5.92) was much lower than for the Yo-Yo intermittent fitness test (ave 47.48 ± 1.06).

Also note that such comparisons may depend on which formulas are used. There are quite a few formula available for converting beep test scores to VO2max, and different values can be expected depending on which is used.

Compare Scores

Ideally you would like to see the same athletes do both tests and compare their scores. The best young footballers in Australia take part in the annual AFL testing combine. The Australian football combine changed their aerobic test from the beep test to the yo-yo test in 2017. The best beep test score in the years leading up to the changeover was 16-6, with the top yo-yo test score since the change was 22-4.

Test Equivalents

Soccer referees have optional testing for the beep or yo-yo tests, and have set what they believe to be equivalent standards for both. The soccer referees requirements for the yo-yo is 18-19 as acceptable (optimal is > 19), with the equivalent for the beep being 12.6-13.5 (optimal is > 13.6).

SUMMARY

While both the beep test and the yo-yo test appear to be very similar, and they both rely partly on the aerobic system, the yo-yo test is more complex and other fitness components are involved which make direct comparisons not appropriate.

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