The Ruffier-Dickson Index: Protocol and Analysis

Each person is at a certain fitness level, which may or may not be suitable for some exercises. The Ruffier-Dickson index provides a formula that analyzes each athlete's particular condition.
The Ruffier-Dickson Index: Protocol and Analysis

Last update: 17 May, 2019

The Ruffier-Dickson index a simple test to know how your heart responds to physical exertion. Cardiac adaptation and recovery are evaluated using physical activity. Therefore, the result shows how in shape a certain person is.

What’s more, this test is very easy to perform and takes only a few minutes. Moreover, any person can do it in the comfort of their home. The trick is, to be honest, and attentive to the assessments. The formula is applied and the results then help determine what measures you should take.

Those who use the Ruffier-Dickson index only need to know how to count a pulse and do squats. Further, this exercise is practiced standing, with your torso upright at a 90-degree angle and with your hands on your hips. Then, you have to bend and extend your legs at a fast and even pace.

Using the Ruffier-Dickson index

The test was popular in the 80s to assess French athletes. It involves measuring a person’s pulse at three different times in one minute. In fact, some choose to do it for 15 seconds and multiply the results by four.

  • P1: before starting exercise, and still resting; you can be standing or sitting.
  • P2: as soon as you’re done exercising; immediately after you’ve finished the exercise.
  • P3: following one minute of recovery; rest one minute after P2 and check your pulse again

Once you take the first measurement (P1), complete 30 squats in 45 seconds. Women are required to do 20 in 30 seconds.

Keep in mind that the number is the minimum you should do within that time. In other words, if you do 30 before the 45 seconds are up, you have to keep going until you reach the set time.

Ruffier-Dickson index

Then, using the data, apply this formula:

I= (P1 + P2 + P3) – 200 / 10

Analyzing the Ruffier-Dickson index results

The result of the formula is the index of the person’s cardiac health. Depending on your score, you may have an athletic heart or you may need to talk to a doctor.

  • 0 to 4: optimal conditions for short-term physical exertion
  • 4 to 8: the heart is suitable for exercise
  • 8 to 12: should make a plan to return to a proper fitness level
  • 12 to 16: visit a health professional for a thorough check-up
  • Over 16: reveals a bad condition or a weak heart

Ruffier-Dickson index test example

(80 + 125 + 90) – 200 / 10 = 9.5

For example, these results land in the table’s third range. In other words, it’s outside of an ideal range. It doesn’t mean you have heart problems, but you may need a plan to improve.

Variation for high-performance athletes

This test shares the same characteristics as the previous test. However, it’s more demanding. Indeed, the formula to determine the index varies for competitive athletes.

I= ((P1 – 70) + 2 * (P2 – P0)) / 10

The ranges are:

  • 0 to 3 = Excellent
  • 3 to 6 = Normal
  • 6 to 8 = Weak
  • Over 8 = Not in good enough condition for high-performance sports
Man taking pulse at the gym


So, if you take the same pulse measurements as in the previous case, the result would be:

I= (55 + 2 * 10) / 10


I= (55 + 20) / 10


I= 75 / 10 = 7.5

So, the same levels with a different calculation for professional athletes bring different results. As a result, with these values, the same person wouldn’t be able to compete without medical supervision. Simply put, that fitness level would be acceptable for a fitness amateur but not for an athlete.

In conclusion, the Ruffier-Dickson index is calculated with the formula that corresponds to a person’s training. Indeed, it’s the surest way to get a glimpse at a person’s fitness level.

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