Yo-Yo Test: Complete Guide & Normative Data

In this article, we’re going to cover what the Yo-Yo test is, how to perform the test and provide normative data for athletes competing in various sports and at various levels. 

What is the yo-yo intermittent recovery test?

The Yo-Yo intermittent recovery test (IRT) is a maximal test, which involves athletes repeatedly completing 2 x 20m shuttle runs at increasing speeds, with a 10 second recovery period between each shuttle, until exhaustion.

This test is used to assess an athlete’s ability to repeatedly perform high intensity exercise. It has become a highly popular test used in team sports such as football and rugby, which require short intense bursts of running followed by a short period of recovery, due to its specificity and practicality. 

There are two variations of the test:

  • Yo-Yo intermittent recovery test 1, also known as Yo-Yo IR1 or Yo-Yo Test Level 1. 
  • Yo-Yo intermittent recovery test 2, also known as Yo-Yo IR2 or Yo-Yo Test Level 2.

Yo-Yo intermittent recovery test level 1

The yo-yo intermittent recovery test level 1 assesses an athlete’s ability to repeatedly perform high intensity aerobic work, and measures an athlete’s endurance capacity. The yo-yo intermittent recovery test level 1 is the most popular version of the Yo-Yo test and is the recommended test for S&C professionals. It

The Yo-Yo IR1 test starts at 10 km/hr and increases speed at a moderate rate – it consists of 4 shuttles at 10-13 km/h followed by 7 shuttles at 13.5-14 km/h and increases speed at 0.5 km/h increments after every 8 shuttles until exhaustion. 

This test typically lasts for 10-20 minutes and is suitable for young or recreational athletes. 

Yo-Yo intermittent recovery test level 2

This test assesses an athlete’s ability to repeatedly perform intense work with a high anaerobic energy contribution along with an aerobic contribution. 

The Yo-Yo IR2 test starts at a higher speed (13 km/h) and increases speed initially at a higher rate compared to the Yo-Yo IR1 test – it consists of 2 shuttles at 13 km/h and 15 km/h, followed by 2 shuttles at 16 km/h, 3 shuttles at 16.5 km/h, 4 shuttles at 17km/h and then increases speed at 0.5 km/h increments after every 8 shuttles until exhaustion. 

This test typically lasts for 5-15 minutes and is suitable for highly trained athletes i.e., elite, and professional athletes. 

How to perform the yo-yo intermittent recovery test

To perform the yo-yo test, you will need:

  • Cones
  • 30m tape measure
  • Yo-Yo intermittent recovery test audio tape
  • Speaker
  • Recording sheet (click here for a pdf recording sheet for Yo-Yo test level 1 and here for Yo-Yo test level 2 from The Complete Guide to the Yo-Yo Test)
  • 40m testing area 
  • Two or more test administrators

Set up for the yo-yo intermittent recovery test: 

The figure below demonstrates the setup for the yo-yo test:

Yo-Yo test setup with recovery and running zones
Set up for the Yo-Yo Test (adapted from Haff & Triplett, 2015).
  • Place three channels of cones in a straight line, 5 and 20m apart (indicated by the orange circles in figure 1). 
  • One test administrator should stand in line with the start/finish line and the other test administrator should stand in line with the turn line at the 20m mark. If additional test administrators are available, they should assist at the start/finish and 20m turning line. 
  • One test administrator should set up the audio tape on the speaker – the audio tape will dictate the test and the “beeps” will indicate the start and end of each shuttle. 

Test procedure:

  •  All athletes will line up along the start line. 
  • The audio tape will provide instructions to the athletes and indicate when to start. Once instructed on the first “beep” to start, the athletes must complete a 20m shuttle run – they must run to the 20m turning line before a second “beep” and then turn with one foot on or over the line and run 20m back to the start line within the allocated time, as indicated by the third “beep”
  • The athlete will then have a 10 second recovery period before the next shuttle, during this time they must jog to the 5m turn line and back to the start line and then wait for the next shuttle to start, as indicated by the “beep”. 
  •  At regular intervals, the time to complete each shuttle will reduce, so the athlete will need to increase their running speed to ensure they make each shuttle within the allocated time.
  • The test administrators can keep a visual record on which level the test is currently at by marking off each level on the recording sheet as it’s reached. 
  • The test stops when either the athlete has reached their physical limit and chooses to stop, or if they are given two warnings from the test administrators. The test administrator can mark the initials of the athlete on the recording sheet if/when they receive a warning to help them keep track. Warnings are given to the athlete if:
  1. They don’t reach the start/finish line on or before the audio signal. 
  2. They start to run before the audio signal. 
  3. They run short of the turning line. 
  • Once the athlete has stopped the test, their initials is written into the appropriate box on the recording sheet by the test administrators to indicate which level they reached. Please note, if you are completing this test with a group, athletes will be stopping the test at different times so only stop the tape recording when the last athlete has stopped the test. 

How to score the yo-yo intermittent recovery test? 

There are three ways we can provide a score for an athlete, these include:

  • Level achieved
  • Total distance (m)
  • VO2 Max

Level Achieved

The athletes level achieved is the level of the last shuttle they successfully completed; this can be marked on the recording sheet by placing the athletes’ initials in the appropriate box. 

Total Distance

To calculate yo-yo test total distance ran by the athlete during the Yo-Yo test, note the number of shuttles the athlete successfully completed and multiply that number by 40 (distance ran per each shuttle). 

Example: An athlete completed 25 shuttles

  • 25 x 40 = 1,000m 
  • Total distance ran = 1,000m 

VO2 Max

To estimate the athletes VO2 max from the results of the Yo-Yo tests, use the formulas below: 

Yo-Yo intermittent recovery test level 1:

  • VO2 max (mL*kg-1*min-1) = total distance (m) x 0.0084 + 36.4

Yo-Yo intermittent recovery test level 2:

  • VO2 max (mL*kg-1*min-1) = total distance (m) x 0.0136 + 45.3

Creating valid and reliable data

To maximise the reliability and validity the test, there are several factors we must consider: 

How to make the Yo-Yo test valid and reliable.

Normative data for the yo-yo intermittent recovery test

Yo-Yo normative data for distances completed during the yo-yo level 1 test from athletes competing in various sports and at various levels can be seen in the table below. We can use this to guide us in interpreting our athletes score.

Normative data for the yo-yo test
Normative data for the Yo-Yo Level 1 Test (adapted from Haff & Triplett, 2015).

Yo-yo intermittent recovery test reliability and validity

The Yo-Yo tests have high validity and reliability, with high reproducibility demonstrated after studies observed the same results when tests were repeated within the same week by elite male football players.

The Yo-Yo level 1 test is a sensitive measure of changes in performance and is a moderately reliable predictor of VO2 max. 

Frequently asked questions

Where can I find a recording sheet for the yo-yo test?

You can find a pdf copy of a scoring sheet for the Yo-Yo test level 1 by clicking here and for the Yo-Yo test level 2 by clicking here, thanks to The Complete Guide to the Yo-Yo test. 

What is a good score on the yo-yo test?

We have provided normative values in this article for athletes competing in various sports and at various levels, which you can use to interpret your score.

Below are rating tables which was first created by Top End Sports, where they’ve published scores for what they consider is a very poor, below average, average, good, excellent, and elite score for males and females completing Level 1 and 2 test. To find the original tables and how they determined the categories, please click here

good scores for the Yo-Yo test level 1 for males and females
Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Test Level 1 norms for adult males and females (adapted from Top End Sports).
good scores for the Yo-Yo test level 2 for males and females
Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Test Level 2 norms for adult males and females (adapted from Top End Sports).

What does the yo-yo test measure?

The Yo-Yo test is used to assess an athlete’s ability to repeatedly perform high intensity exercise.

More specifically, the Yo-Yo test level 1 focuses on an athlete’s ability to repeatedly perform high intensity aerobic work whereas the Yo-Yo test level 2 focuses on an athlete’s ability to repeatedly perform intense work with a high anaerobic energy contribution in combination with an aerobic contribution.

Where to find the yo-yo test audio?

You can purchase the Yo-Yo Level 1 and 2 test audio tapes on CD for $2.99 each from The Complete Guide to the Yo-Yo Test here.

You can also access the Yo-Yo Level 1 and 2 test audios tapes for free on YouTube:

  • Click here for level 1 – credit to J Serra Boys Soccer.
  • Click here for level 2– credit to SF Complete Coaching. 

Summary

The Yo-Yo intermittent recovery test is a popular test in sport to assess an athlete’s ability to repeatedly perform high intensity exercise, due to its specificity and practicality. There are two variations of the test; the yo-yo intermittent recovery test level 1 starts at a lower speed and the increase in speed is more moderate than the intermittent recovery test level 2. 

There are three ways we can provide a score for an athlete which include the level they achieved, the total distance they ran and by estimating their VO2 max and we can use normative data to guide us in interpreting their score. 

For more on fitness testing for athletes check out this article, or if you’d like to learn more about testing agility, check out these articles on the 505 Agility test and The Pro Agility test.

Further Reading

Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

Shaw, W (2021). Yo-Yo Test: omplete Guide & Normative Data:. Available from: https://sportscienceinsider.com/yo-yo-test/ [Accessed dd/mm/yyyy].

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Golf Insider UK | Website | + posts

Will is a sport scientist and golf professional who specialises in motor control and motor learning. Will lecturers part-time in motor control and biomechanics, runs Golf Insider UK and consults elite athletes who are interested in optimising their training and performance.