The Cooper test is one of the simplest methods for determining current endurance performance.

Although the Cooper test has been around for many decades, it is still considered a reliable method for determining endurance. It is even sometimes used as an admission criterion at universities and sports schools.

How does the Cooper Test work?

Participants have to cover the greatest possible distance in 12 minutes. Normally, the Cooper Test is completed on a 400-meter track. However, the test can also be taken on other flat courses with track dimensions.

The Cooper test should be performed under standardizable and comparable conditions. For this purpose, an outside temperature of 15 - 25 degrees Celsius and and a maximum humidity of 70 percent are recommended.

When assessing the test results, it is necessary to differentiate between age and gender. The highest performance is expected in men aged 17 - 29 years, and in women aged 20 - 29 years.

Cooper test for women: Evaluation

Using the following table, women can evaluate their performance on the Cooper test:

AgeVery GoodGoodAverageWeakVery weak
50+ 2.200+ 1.700-2.200 1.400-1.699 1.100-1.399 <1.100
40-49 2.300+ 1.900-2.300 1.500-1.899 1.200-1.499 <1.200
30-39 2.500+ 2.000-2.500 1.700-1.999 1.400-1.699 <1.400
20-29 2.700+ 2.200-2.700 1.800-2.199 1.500-1.799 <1.500
17-19 2.300+ 2.100-2.300 1.800-2.099 1.700-1.799 <1.700
15-16 2.100+ 2.000-2.100 1.700-1.999 1.600-1.699 <1.600
13-14 2.000+ 1.900-2.000 1.600-1.899 1.500-1.599 <1.500
Pro 3.000+ 2.700-3.000 2.400-2.699 2.100-2.399 <2.100

Pro = female competitive endurance athletes, regardless of age.
The running distance in meters is always given as a number

Cooper test for men: evaluation

Using the following table, men can evaluate their performance based on the Cooper test:

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AgeVery good
GoodAverageWeakVery weak
50+ 2.400+ 2.000-2.400 1.600--1.999 1.300-1.599 <1.300
40-49 2.500+ 2.100-2.500 1.700-2.099 1.400-1.699 <1.400
30-39 2.700+ 2.300-2.700 1.900-2.299 1.500-1.899 <1.500
20-29 2.800+ 2.400-2.800 2.200-2.399 1.600-2.199 <1.600
17-19 3.000+ 2.700-3.000 2.500-2.699 2.300-2.499 <2.300
15-16 2.800+ 2.500-2.800 2.300-2.499 2.200-2.299 <2.200
13-14 2.700+ 2.400-2.700 2.200-2.399 2.100-2.199 <2.100
Pro 3.700+ 3.400-3.700 3.100-3.399 2.800-3.099 <2.800

Pro = Competitive endurance athletes, regardless of age.
The running distance in meters is always given as the number

For males at a young age, the specifications are above average.

Notes on the evaluation of the Cooper test

For a male competitive endurance athlete to achieve a "Very Good" result, a distance of over 3,700 meters must be run. This results in an average pace of 3:15 minutes per kilometer and can normally only be achieved by ambitious runners. For the women, a distance of more than 3,000 meters would have to be achieved, giving a pace of 4:00 minutes per kilometer.

Gender comparison not recommended for Cooper test in adolescence

In general, it is somewhat noticeable in the tables that the targets are somewhat more difficult to achieve for the men, of course also taking into account gender. A difference of 45 seconds per kilometer does not exist, at least in elite sports, even between men and women. If you compare, for example, the world records for 3,000 meters and 5,000 meters, the difference is 15 - 18 seconds.

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The men's 5,000-meter world record as of 2021 is 12:35 minutes (2:31 minutes per kilometer), while the women's record is 14:06 minutes (2:49 minutes per kilometer). Over 3,000 meters, the men's world record stands at 7:21 minutes (2:27 minutes per kilometer) and the women's at 8:06 minutes (2:42 minutes per kilometer). That is, the differences are 18 and 15 seconds, respectively, and this is for a comparable running time to the Cooper test. However, the recommended table of the Cooper test has specified a difference of 45 seconds per kilometer in the case of competitive athletes. It is therefore up to 3 times as high.

The assessments in the youth age of 13 - 19 years are also very different. Only in the age range from 20 years the values are comparable. A man aged 30 - 35 would have to run at least 2,700 meters for a very good result, a woman 2,500 meters. For men, that would be a pace of 4:27 minutes per kilometer, for women a pace of 4:48 minutes per kilometer. The difference of 21 seconds is thus very close to the comparison of world-class runners.

Where should the Cooper test be used and where not?

To assess endurance performance, use of the Cooper test is not recommended until the age of 20. Before that age, too many factors can influence performance in the very short term. In addition, in adolescents, fluctuations or jumps in performance are possible within a short period of time. According to scientists, the Cooper test is not suitable as an assessment criterion in physical education classes, but it can be used regularly to monitor the development of aerobic performance in ambitious young people.

The Cooper Test has justification at universities with a sports connection (e.g. sports science, sports teaching) as part of the admission process. The Cooper test is also recommended for occupational groups that require a certain degree of athleticism and endurance (police or professional firefighters).

Likewise, of course, the Cooper test has its justified use in the private sector. Thus, the development of one's own athletic performance can be measured with the regular execution of the Cooper test (e.g. once per quarter). In the club, the Cooper Test can also be used as a comparison with other members.

Since the Cooper test determines performance over a period of only 12 minutes, it is difficult to gauge the potential for long running distances, such as the half marathon or marathon. This test method is therefore only suitable to a limited extent. However, with our performance potential table you can determine the athletic potential over distances from 5 km to a marathon.

Tips for preparing for the Cooper test

Training for the Cooper test can be compared to the running training of a 3,000-meter runner. Why? Because a large percentage of male and female runners achieve a distance of about 3,000 meters, if that.

This means that long endurance runs are not essential for the Cooper Test. It is true that even a good 3,000-meter runner needs very good basic endurance. However, speed or speed endurance is just as important.

Therefore, in addition to the basic training (30 to max. 60 minutes of running), the Cooper test should focus on pace, which is desired in the Cooper test. For example, if you want to reach 3,000 meters, you need to run a pace of 4:00 minutes per kilometer. You can use our mileage calculator to calculate your pace for the Cooper test.

Once a week you should do an interval workout where you divide the desired pace or even slightly faster into several sections. An example: 3 x 1,000 meters in 3:55 - 4:00 minutes per kilometer or 6 - 8 x 500 meters in 3:50 - 4:00 minutes per kilometer. The total amount of tempo runs should be at least 3,000 meters or slightly longer. The pace should be at least as fast as the planned pace at the Cooper test or slightly faster.

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