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850 pounds and counting! 80-year-old powerlifter inspires other seniors to hit the gym

[Nov 11, 2021: Eric Gross]

80-year-old Mahopac resident, Mike Palen, has been weightlifting since the age of 14. (CREDIT: Eric Gross)

Mike Palen continues to amaze. The 80-year-old Mahopac resident, who has been weightlifting since the age of 14, serves as an inspiration to young and old alike with his lifting ability that has surpassed 850 pounds.

Palen recalled lifting his first weight constructed from an old piece of concrete, which was fabricated into a barbell. “I fell in love with the sport that allowed me to remain in good physical condition for my entire life,” he said, adding “weights have allowed me to play sports at an older age than folks my age would never consider, such as volleyball, racquetball and baseball.”

Palen’s original specialty was a military press of 265 pounds and a clean and jerk of 315 pounds accompanied by a snatch of 235 pounds with a body weight of 165 pounds.


While Mike’s dream of entering the Olympics never materialized due to military service, marriage and raising a family, he has kept active with weight lifting currently working out at the New York Sports Club in Baldwin Place three times each week.

He has recently lifted 855 pounds in his heavy routine. (CREDIT: Eric Gross)

He credits his membership in “Silver Sneakers” which he descr ibed as a “great way of providing free membership at health clubs nationwide. Hopefully, this program will allow many seniors like me to maintain their health while supporting longevity and reducing health care costs.”

Mike’s routine begins each workout with half squats containing 315 pounds with reps of four working his way up to 450 pounds off the rack unassisted. He admitted refraining from full squats in order to “save my knees.”


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Once he has warmed up, Palen begins a heavy lift routine by adding 45 pound plates two at a time until he reaches the weight he can handle on that particular day which usually ranges between 675 pounds to 800 pounds. He has recently lifted 855 pounds in his heavy routine and noted that he begins with the ‘lift to better utilize my fresh strength.” The remainder of his twohour routine consists of a bench press, curls, triceps, calves and military presses.

Palen’s original specialty was a military press of 265 pounds and a clean and jerk of 315 pounds. (CREDIT: Eric Gross)

Palen refrains from partaking in the dead-lift common in the Strong Man competition where giants of men lift as much as 1,070 pounds of weight. Mike said he participated in the dead-lift years ago but no longer because “this is the worst thing for your back.”

People often ask Mike “why do you do this?” His response: “Because I can.’”

Palen realizes that such weights may be within reach for younger men but “I like to show them that a guy who is 78 years old, stands five feet eight inches tall and weighs 185 pounds can inspire others my age to join Silver Sneakers at an older age and stay fit. Besides, keeping in physical shape helps the mind and body from getting old.”


Jose Ramirez, manager of the gym and New York Sports Club’s assistant manager Chris Herteleney, both described Mike as encouraging to others. “The guy really motivates those in the club to try even harder. Mike is truly amazing,” said Herteleney.

When not in the weight room, Mike, a retired business executive, works on the family’s vacation home in Amenia built by hand which he admitted “enjoying tremendously.”

Palen grew up in Westchester and attended Annunciation Grade School, Stepinac High School, Westchester Community College and Manhattan College.

He and his bride of 54 years, Sandra, have been blessed with three children and three grandchildren.


Mike’s hope is that others continue to be inspired by his dedication and determination to keep fit: “Exercise keeps you young and helps you to do everyday chores easier. Many people my age can’t even turn their heads without pain. A few minutes of stretching each day keeps the pain away while lifting weights allows you to stay in shape at any age.”

Palen’s message: “Stay young!”

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