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Strength in numbers: 80-year-old alum sets deadlifting record at nearly 210 pounds

It all started when fitness devotee Dennis Galanter wanted to knock a few strokes off his golf game

Dennis Galanter deadlifts
Dennis Galanter had to lift nearly 210 pounds to set a record. (Photo/Ryan Forbes)

Dennis Galanter DDS ’60 never imagined he would one day hold the national record for deadlifting in his age and weight category.

In fact, all the 80-year-old hoped to do by lifting weights was improve his golf game.

“I had gone to the Titleist Performance Institute to see about getting fitted for clubs. They also had a program where you could have your physical fitness level checked,” said Galanter, an alumnus and former faculty member at the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC. “I ended up getting a C-plus on my fitness test and I was very upset.”

The ex-college gymnast and longtime fitness devotee sprang to action, signing up at Titleist for weight training to improve his health and knock a few strokes off his game.

“My trainer had me do some deadlifting with lighter weights at first,” Galanter explained. “But, eventually, when I got up to a couple hundred pounds, he looked at the national records and said, ‘Breaking this record is a low-hanging fruit because there aren’t too many 80-year-old men who are 148 pounds. You can probably do this.’”

To break the record, Galanter would need to lift 209-and-a-half pounds — 60-plus pounds more than he weighs.

It was a particularly daring feat given that a little more than a decade ago, Galanter suffered a particularly nasty fall on his back, breaking portions of his cervical spine.

“That was scary,” he recalled. “I could’ve been paraplegic.”

Through the years, he suffered chronic back pain from the injury. “The back pain kept on coming back, but when I started doing the deadlifting, it actually went away,” he said.

Weight for it

Dennis Galanter works out

Galanter has an uplifting story. (Photo/Ryan Forbes)

So with the national goal in mind, Galanter headed to the U.S. Powerlifting Association in Lakewood, where he competed alongside diehard deadlifters — “everyone had a tattoo,” he said — to snag the U.S. Powerlifting Association Single Lift Record for Deadlift, Master’s (Men, 80-plus).

“It really was a culmination and validation of all the work I had put in,” he said of the accomplishment.

Galanter earned his doctor of dental surgery degree from USC in 1960 and was a faculty member for nearly three decades, leaving in 1988. He ran a private practice in Westwood for 35 years before retiring in 1997. He taught periodontics to general practice residents from 2000 to 2012 at Cedars-Sinai Hospital.

Since retiring, he’s devoted himself to creative passions, including playing violin, singing with the Verdi Chorus in Santa Monica and attending study discussion groups.

While he’s not currently training to break any new records, he does maintain his routine, lifting weights in his garage three times a week — something he plans to do as long as it’s still enjoyable.

As for that golf game he wanted to improve? “I still can’t hit the ball any further,” Galanter said with a laugh. “It hasn’t helped that at all.”

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Strength in numbers: 80-year-old alum sets deadlifting record at nearly 210 pounds

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