The days are getting longer, the sun is shining a bit more, winter is beginning to retreat and those summer clothes are starting to peek around the corner of your closet.  Everyone loves summer.  The clothes, the weather, all the outdoor fun to be had!  However, if you are anything like me and most people I know, there is that looming dread of exposing your legs to the world after a winter hibernation.

Cardio is crucial to keep the weight off, but strength training is needed in combination to build muscle and hey it can even make you live longer!  If you are excited to dust off those cute summer shorts, but worried your lackluster legs will distract from the style, then read on for how to learn 7 of the best exercises to refine and strengthen those legs of yours!

1) The trusty cross fit rig (also known as the pull up bar) is a really great and versatile piece of equipment that provides a head to toe workout. The crossfit rig can be used for hanging leg raises that target the core and the legs.  To do this exercise grip the bar with your palms facing away from you, tighten your shoulders and back, keep your legs straight, and lift until parallel to the floor.  Feel the burn in all of your body with this one!

2) The most obvious way to gain leg strength is the front and back squat.

This exercise heavily targets the quads, engages the hamstrings and burns calories.  While the quads are the bigger, stronger and more visible muscle group, it is imperative to include hamstring exercises in conjunction with quads.

3) Heavy compound movements are a great way to add strength and size to your leg muscles.  You can increase the reps and weights on machines, but heavy free weights are the most effective – such as the squats mentioned above.

4) With muscle building, less is more when it comes to heavy compound lifting.

It may seem counter intuitive, but the heavier you lift, the fewer reps you need to do each week.  One targeted, effective heavy quad workout per week is enough and will decrease your risk of overtraining your muscles.

5) Be safe, take it slow, and do your research.

Learn how to exercise safely by allowing progressive overload.  This means you add weight over time while increasing the reps, until you have your once per week heavy compound exercise.

6) Along with what to do correctly, it is important to note what to avoid in your pursuit of strong legs.  Avoid doing the wrong leg exercises, and make sure you do the right ones correctly.  Avoid rounding your back or bowing your knees when squatting, for example.

Don’t overdo it.  Too much high-rep training will backfire and actually stunt the growth of other muscle groups.  Listen to your body, rest when you need to rest, and add weight when you are feeling strong.

A common mistake in weightlifting is to focus too much on upper body.  We have all seen that super muscly man or woman who has a triangle shaped body held up by scrawny little legs.   Building strong, defined legs is crucial for overall health and strength.  Like all other muscle groups, there is no overnight solution to strong legs.

Building strength takes time, dedication and hard work.

However, when you slip those shorts on and people turn their heads on the beach to say, “whoa, look at those legs”, all the burn from the endless squats will fade into sheer pride and leg love!