Cooper-Test Start-Linie

Endurance testing in sports - Is the 12min-Cooper-Test the yellow of the egg?

(Reading time: 4 - 8 minutes)

Thoughts on a teacher- and student-friendly alternative

About the author: High school teacher in Baden-Württemberg for sports and mathematics and enthusiastic SportZens user

The article is a little longer... here it goes directly to the conclusion

What are the strengths of the Cooper test?

The test is quick and easy to perform. If you only look at the load, everything is over in 12 minutes. The wide distribution is also a reason why numerous tools for testing already exist (see Figure 1 Sportzens). There are also official tables that can be used for orientation (students accept grades more easily if the values are printed on an official-looking table). The Cooper test has been proven to test long-term endurance and is familiar to both teachers and students. In addition, the test is a (long term) part of the baccalaureate (may not be for long).

Cooper-Test in SportZens

Fig.1: Lap counter, slider, note table. All integrated in SportZens (tablet view).

In order to clarify where the weaknesses of the Cooper test lie, one must first consider what the goal of physical education is. So the question cannot be answered without personal coloration, because for an argument it can be considered in both directions. Example: The statement "The Cooper test pushes the students to their performance limits or beyond" can speak for and against the test: a) It's great that the students are challenged or b) you can spoil everyone's desire for endurance sports.

So first of all I would like to explain some of my main goals in the field of endurance sports at school with my own pedagogical coloring:

Three pedagogical perspectives

P1. Leading weaker pupils to (endurance) sports

A sport grenade is not deterred by a Cooper test. Maybe it even holds additional motivation if you don't get the 15 points. But you don't have to lead sporty students* to sports - they already do it.
If, after the endurance unit, students say "I jog regularly now - I enjoy it", then my main goal has been achieved

P2. Health perspective > Performance perspective Congruence of theory and practice

In sports theory, I teach my students that you have to start slowly and with large amounts and only gradually increase the intensity. I also explain the importance of the aspect "relaxed but regular" for the development of a good basic endurance (which is of great importance for health and well-being).

But how do you skillfully train for a Cooper test when there are perhaps only a few weeks left? Speed training at high intensity to learn how to deal with lactate. In the core subject no problem and perhaps a good chance to experience the repetition method or intensive interval training in practice. In the other cases, however, somewhat questionable...

And also for many students of the core subject it is an "aha" experience, when not everything hurts in sports, when you can switch off while jogging (psychological balance) and still achieve training success.

Now to the main problem, which I want to explain with an example:
11th grade sport basic course: A group is really motivated, feels like running and meets regularly. They are happy that the "take it easy but meet regularly" tip works so well and also notice how running helps to balance out the stress of school.
The performance curve climbs quickly: from 2 minutes of running - 1 minute break under pain (calves, feet, etc.) the 5 students* manage to run through an hour of relaxed dynamic. They cover 9 km per hour. The running technique has improved extremely.
Great! The students have discovered something in their sports lessons that enriches their lives. They listen and even try to persuade their parents to run. The only problem is that this is not good training for the Cooper Test and therefore the Cooper Test performance is not necessarily improved in a desirable way.
Scoring on the Cooper test would not be a reward for exactly the kind of behavior I want students to show, but rather a punishment. In the end, it would be about enduring pain again and the great performance improvement would not be noticed if you just follow the official tables for the upper school.

Yes, the performance perspective is also important. But why not both? To consider endurance running as a basic competence for health and to test it accordingly. The performance perspective can certainly be dealt with in other disciplines (1000m, 400m, 100m, throwing, jumping etc.)

Yes, you can customize the tables (this is also possible with Sportzens), but the pace for a 12-minute run is completely different from the one recommended for a young endurance athlete for basic training with wide circumferences.
Listening to your body, observing your breathing, perhaps even being able to talk, relaxing, ... these important aspects of endurance training are not given enough attention during the 12-minute run and its preparation.

P3. Cost-benefit calculation:

I would like to have time to respond to the students* and to create a good atmosphere while doing sports. If I have to work with tables, count the rounds of 30 students at the same time, note down the stops of all students in no time and try to correct any mistakes afterwards at home, I feel that the lesson was a failure. The Cooper test is clearly defined in terms of time, but the costs of the test are relatively high for me as a teacher. In addition, I still want to create resilient grades.

Under these aspects I would like to present an alternative to the Cooper test (including the appropriate tools so that the pedagogical perspectives (1.-3.) can be taken into account as well as possible).

In short, it can be said:

The run must be longer, you should have to run less into the red area and the teacher should be able to keep a better overview ...

Here is the approach:

4000m instead of 12min- some arguments

A1 Running longer means: anaerobic endurance is becoming less and less important. You have to walk less in the red zone. The pace you get into the habit of jogging is more similar to the 4000m run. Compared to the 12-minute run, it is now more important to run consistently with good running technique.

A2 The students* start and finish the run at the finish line (more overview): This would of course be fulfilled at any multiple of 400m (on a classical running track). The advantage is obvious: I wait at the finish line and stop times without having to pay attention to laps and 25m marks. Goes great with SportZens: See fig. 2!

Mittelstrecke in SportZens - Smartphoneansicht

Fig.2: With the "middle distance" function, students* can be pre-sorted by speed. You wait at the finish line and stop the time. The note is directly selected according to the pre-selected table, saved and the note list can then be exported (smartphone view).

Another advantage: Every student* has to run 4000m. If you are slower, you will be cheered on by your classmates at the end - a nice experience. Sometimes it takes a bit longer, yes. But to run 4000m is a very realistic minimum goal for students. Even a weak student learns to listen to his body and to use his strength to reach the goal. Whether this "run through and reach the finish" corresponds to a grade 4 or maybe even a grade 3 is a matter of taste. In SportZens, tables are included that allow for exactly this pedagogical freedom of choice. (An article on the question of which table to create is currently in progress).

In addition: Since the Cooper-Pace is usually above the anaerobic threshold, there are often aborts because only a few train sufficiently often with the appropriate intensities to get used to the competition. From my previous experience with 4000m runs I can say that aborts are much less frequent and students are more willing to take part in the test if, for example, a muscle tweaks slightly.


How do you start running? With intensive interval training and running in the red zone? No! Especially for health sports there are good and sensible rules of thumb that make it easier to get started: run often, but run comfortably. Nothing should hurt, you should at least be able to talk in short sentences and relax, switch off while running. The important thing is the long-term perspective!

Then comes the Cooper test ... Not only the students* are frustrated, but also the teachers. The students systematically avoid the test or start to get out or leave after a few rounds.

The leisurely pace that the teacher recommends to start running no longer has anything to do with the examination space.

Notes? The teacher blows the whistle. Some students go on, some stop. The student on the other side of the sports field is unfortunately no longer recognizable. Could it be Peter or maybe Sabine? If you then stick to the official tables, you have scared off the last student who at least thought about whether running might be something for him.

Better is the 4000m run. The students* all arrive at the same finish and are welcomed with cheers. The pace is much closer to the jogging space and with the appropriate tables, you can also give the weak student a motivating note for staying the course. How one should grade the 4000m run to motivate especially weak students is another topic ... an article is already in progress.

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