Dyspnea, the sensation of uncomfortable breathing, is the primary activity-limiting symptom leading to reduced functional ability in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Patients with severe COPD report a marked increase in the sensation of dyspnea with routine tasks that require arm use, especially activities necessitating unsupported arm elevation. Dyspnea is associated with alterations in respiratory muscle function, such as an increase in muscle force requirement, a reduction in respiratory muscle strength and endurance, and an increase in the recruitment of the rib cage and accessory muscles. Unsupported arm exercise (UAE) further compromises respiratory muscle capacity for ventilation because it requires the muscles' concomitant recruitment in the maintenance of chest wall stabilization. This article presents respiratory muscle mechanisms leading to reduced UAE, methods of measuring unsupported arm endurance, and treatment strategies to improve unsupported arm activity endurance in patients with COPD.