Sports Coach Logo Sports Coach Training Principles Fitness Components


Harvard Step Test

Testing and measurement are the means of collecting information upon which subsequent performance evaluations and decisions are made. In the analysis, we need to consider the factors influencing the results. The Harvard Step Test was developed by Brouha et al. (1943)[2]


This test aims to monitor the development of the athlete's cardiovascular system.

Required Resources

To conduct this test, you will require:

  • Gym bench (45cm high)
  • Stopwatch
  • Assistant

How to conduct the test

This test requires the athlete to step up and down off a 45cm high gym bench for 5 minutes at a rate of 30 steps/minute

  • The athlete warms up for 10 minutes
  • The assistant gives the command "GO" and starts the stopwatch
  • The athlete steps up and down onto a standard gym bench once every two seconds for five minutes (150 steps)
  • The assistant stops the test after 5 minutes
  • The assistant measures the athlete's heart rate (bpm) one minute after finishing the test - Pulse1
  • The assistant measures the athlete's heart rate (bpm) two minutes after finishing the test - Pulse2
  • The assistant measures the athlete's heart rate (bpm) three minutes after finishing the test - Pulse3
Harvard Step Test - start Harvard step test - finish


The following normative data for 16-year-old athletes are available for this test using a 45cm step (Beashel and Taylor 1997)[1].

Gender Excellent Above Average Average Below Average Poor
Male >90.0 80.0 - 90.0 65.0 - 79.9 55.0 - 64.9 <55
Female >86.0 76.0 - 86.0 61.0 - 75.9 50.0 - 60.9 <50

Using the three pulse rates (bpm), an estimate of your level of fitness can be determined as follows:

  • Result = 30000 ÷ (pulse1 + pulse2 + pulse3)

To estimate your fitness level, enter your gender, pulse rates (Pulse 1, Pulse 2 and Pulse 3) and then select the 'Calculate' button.

Pulse 1 bpm Pulse 2 bpm Pulse 3 bpm
How fit are you? points

Calculations are based on the above normative data table[1]


The test result is analysed by comparing it with the athlete's previous results for this test. It is expected that, with appropriate training between each test, the analysis would indicate an improvement in the athlete's fitness level.

Target Group

This test is suitable for active and sedentary athletes but not for individuals where the test would be contraindicated.


Test reliability refers to how a test is consistent and stable in measuring its intended measure. Reliability will depend upon how strict the test is conducted and the individual's level of motivation to perform the test. The following link provides various factors influencing the results and test reliability.


Test validity refers to the degree to which the test measures what it claims to measure and the extent to which inferences, conclusions, and decisions based on test scores are appropriate and meaningful. This test provides a means to monitor the athlete's physical development.


  • Minimal equipment required
  • Simple to set up and conduct
  • Can be conducted almost anywhere


  • Assistant required to administer the test

Free Calculator

  • The Harvard Step Test - a free Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that you can download and use on your computer.


  1. BEASHEL, P and TAYLOR, J (1997) Fitness for Health and performance. In: BEASHEL, P and TAYLOR, J, The World of Sport Examined. Croatia: Thomas Nelson and Sons, p. 55
  2. BROUGH, L. et al. (1943) The step test: A simple method of measuring physical fitness for muscular work in young men. Research quarterly, 14, p. 31-35

Page Reference

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

  • MACKENZIE, B. (2007) Harvard Step Test [WWW] Available from: [Accessed