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I'm recovering from a serious COPD exacerbation, and want to start building my upper body strength; my goal is both to increase the strength of my chest muscles for breathing, as well as reduce my O2 needs for mundane activities.

Eventually I'm planning to go work at a facility (gym, possibly pulmonary rehab) with trainers and machines. At the moment, I'm hooked up to a stationary oxygen compressor with limited movement and mostly confined to my bed and desk. So, I have very limited range of movement or open space to exercise in. But I want to start building up my strength ASAP, especially since I'm working from home all day with plenty of free time to do it.

I have using small hand weights doing lateral raises (I think? arms lifting straight out at the shoulder), as I have plenty of room out to the side. But in front, I don't really have enough room to properly do curls. Instead I have been rotating my arms 180 degrees so they face outward, and doing curls up to my side instead of up to my chest.

My questions are:

  1. Is this exercise as effective as "proper" curls in building the appropriate muscles?
  2. Is there any possible damage I might be doing by exercising in such an unusual position?
  3. Is there a different type of exercise that has the same effect that would work better?

(I have almost no experience with exercise, so please use small words :) )

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