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What Is a Shuttle Run?

By Kelly Ferguson
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The shuttle run is an exercise in which the participant runs back and forth between two points, sometimes moving blocks or other objects from one point to the other, as fast as possible. It is part of various physical fitness tests, including the President's Challenge fitness test that is administered to children in school during physical education classes. Many athletes also use the shuttle run as a training tool and as a benchmark to gauge their athletic progress during training.

To set up for a shuttle run, place markers, such as lines of tape or plastic cones, a certain distance apart. The President's Challenge test rules say the markers should be 30 feet (9.1 m) apart, but other fitness tests and shuttle runs performed for fitness and training reasons may vary the distance. Placing the markers farther apart makes the test a better measure of sprinting ability, while placing the markers closer together measures the ability of the participant to turn, bend, stand up, and then accelerate again.

The participant begins behind one marker, sprints to the other, touches the ground, sprints back, and then completes this cycle once more to complete a shuttle run. Usually, fitness tests with strict rules will require that the participant pick up a wooden block or other object from the ground at one marker and carry it back to the other to ensure that he or she is truly touching the ground in between sprints. A gym teacher or training partner should stand by and time the runner, often to a tenth of a second, so that it can be scored in the case of fitness challenges and improved upon in future training.

In certain tests, the run can be done multiple times, with the best time used for scoring purposes. In addition to varying the distance between the markers and whether or not the participant is required to carry blocks back and forth, other modifications may be made as long as a specific fitness test's rules allow them. For instance, the number of sprints can be changed, either to only one back and forth sprint, or more often to include several more iterations. When athletes use the run for training purposes, it may be beneficial to greatly increase the number of sprints in the exercise to form an intense interval training workout. Additionally, the shuttle run fitness test can be administered to multiple participants at once, by having them line up side by side behind a longer starting line and starting the run at the same time, although it is harder to keep track of the individual participants' times using this version.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon956850 — On Jun 16, 2014

What is a 7.5 shuttle run?

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