Why the Norwegian 4x4 Protocol is your best option to get into shape fast

It could also help you live longer

Strong, fit woman joggers, running through a sunny park at sunrise. They look determined as they put in the effort. Their hair blows behind them as they look in front of them.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Running is good. It’s quick, free and helps boost your fitness. If you want to use running to get in shape fast, one of the best ways to go about it is to use intervals. Say hello to the Norwegian 4x4 Protocol.

The Norwegian 4x4 Protocol is a powerhouse workout designed to boost your cardiovascular health and stamina in just under 30 minutes. The protocol consists of four intense four-minute intervals at 90-95% of your maximum heart rate, each followed by a three-minute active rest period at 50-60% intensity.

To get started, all you need is a pair of running shoes and your choice of terrain. Whether you prefer the treadmill or a relatively flat running route, the Norwegian 4x4 Protocol adapts to your style.

Feeling adventurous? Take it off-road with a bike, or for an extra challenge, hit the rowing machine. While our test stuck to the road, the versatility of this workout means you can switch it up to keep things fresh and exciting.

The workout

The Norwegian 4×4 protocol involves exercising at the highest intensity you can maintain for four minutes, followed by three minutes of recovery through very light exercise. This interval process is then repeated four times.

According to Dr Rhonda Patrick, the protocol can help slow down ageing and heart disease by increasing one's VO2 max—the maximum rate at which the heart, lungs, and muscles can effectively use oxygen during exercise.

“VO2 max is how fast your body converts the oxygen from your blood into energy. It’s an indicator of your overall cardio fitness. The higher your VO2 max, the higher your fitness level, and the more in shape you are,” says Jack Claxton, Level 3 Personal Trainer and Personal Training Ambassador at David Lloyd.

A higher VO2 max indicates that your body can deliver a lot of oxygen to your muscles, which means they won’t tire out so quickly. According to Austrian scientists, a higher number could also lead to a 50% reduction in all-cause mortality while lowering the risk of various chronic diseases—which, when you think about it, makes sense.

As you can see, a healthy VO2 max is crucial for successful performance in endurance sports and one of the single most important metrics when assessing longevity. It’s time to try the Norwegian 4×4 Protocol.


(Image credit: Drazen Zigic / Freepik)

The Norwegian 4x4 Protocol: a step-by-step guide

The warm-up

Dynamic stretching is a great way to warm up for the Norwegian 4x4. 

Allow five minutes to help get your body moving and your blood pumping.
A runner's lunge and some hops, skips, and jumps are enough to get the body prepared. 

HIIT your 4-minute intervals 

The goal is NOT to push yourself as hard as possible for 4 minutes but to exert yourself hard enough to increase your heart rate to 85–95% of your max and then hold it there. You’ll have to push yourself to reach your target, but once you’ve reached it, you can hopefully get into your stride, where it takes less effort to maintain.

Rest for 3 minutes

The goal is to drop your heart rate right down before your next high-intensity interval. Whatever you do, savour the rest period because the next high-intensity boost comes around very quickly—too quickly…

Go again for four minutes. 

To complete the workout, alternate this 4-minute by 3-minute protocol for 4 total rounds and then cool down for a few minutes with some static stretching and a feeling of accomplishment.

Norwegian 4x4 Intervals are a fantastic way to enhance your fitness efficiently, thanks to their structured approach and proven effectiveness. We loved seeing how far we could go in our 4-minute stint when measured on the Garmin Forerunner 955 and trying to beat it each time.

It’s just four minutes of hard work - but an absolute stinger if you do it right. The only saving grace is you'll be done with the whole thing in thirty sweat-filled (and swear-filled) minutes.

Lucy Miller
Freelance writer

Lucy Miller is a journalist, Level 3 Personal Trainer, Nutritional Advisor and Children’s Fitness Specialist. She holds fitness qualifications from NASM Training and Premier Training International and has been a fitness journalist and fitness (and cover) model for over 20 years. Since going freelance in 2014, Lucy left Men’s Fitness Magazine to write for an abundance of top consumer titles such as Women’s Health, Women’s Fitness, Waitrose, The Times, The Guardian and Runners World.

She’s also extremely passionate when it comes to educating others about health and physical activity and loves inspiring and working with children and adults to help make fitness fun, sustainable and accessible. In her spare time, Lucy is ever the sportswoman. Once a national gymnast, having won three national titles, she has also run a handful of marathons around the world and loves to test her physical and mental side with daily running and gym sessions, not to mention ballet, bootcamp, boxing and TRX.