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My friend found he couldn't do a pull up, and came up with this plan for being able to do one: keep doing dead hangs every day until he could pull himself up the bar at some point. Would this strategy actually work?

I am suspecting it won't, because deadhangs are isometric exercise and pull ups are isotonic, so doing deadhangs, while improving grip strength and pure hanging power, won't contribute directly to being able to do the dynamic motion of a pull up. However, there maybe some factors I am missing, so hence I ask this question.

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I have not read Folland et al, 2005, but perhaps what that study would suggest is that your friend could do both dead hangs and bent-arm hangs. But, doing dead hangs while trying to do a chin-up would increase the angle over days and weeks as well. It's not clear from your statement whether your friend hopes to simply hang there and then one day be able to do a full chin-up, or he plans from the outset to keep trying to do a chin-up while hanging. The study "Do isometric, isotonic and/or isokinetic strength trainings produce different strength outcomes?" by Lee et al is relevant. They write:

After training, muscle lean muscle mass increased in isometric (+3.1%, p < 0.01) and isotonic groups (+3.9%, p < 0.01); only the isokinetic group showed a significant improvement in the triple-hop-distance test (4.84%, p < 0.01). ... Kovaleski et al. (1995) found greater muscle torque increase in isotonic than in isokinetic exercises, while Chen et al. (2015) showed better results with isokinetic exercises. Remaud et al. (2010) found similar significant strength gains in both exercises; however, these discrepancies could be due to high speeds of isokinetic training (150 and 180°/s) and a relatively low isotonic training load (40% of maximal voluntary isometric torque at 70°); probably more pronounced changes could be observed with a more intense program.

Although the number of studies on different types of muscle contractions is relatively large, few have compared isometric to dynamic exercises (Folland et al., 2005, Malas et al., 2013). One limitation of isometric training is that the strength increases are specific to the angle used. To overcome this problem, strength-training series were proposed to be done at different joint angles (Folland et al., 2005); the authors found that isometric and dynamic exercises showed similar isokinetic strength gain, but the gains in isometric strength were significantly greater on the isometrically trained lower limb.

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