The Varbanov School of Weightlifting Team is made up of beginner and advanced weightlifters from 12 years of age to almost 70.  The Team trains 3-5 days a week, and athletes get prepared to compete in local, provincial, national and international events.  If you are interested in joining the team, please contact us at: info@varbanovschool.com, or alex@varbanovschool.com.



Vainatey is a competitive weightlifter (69 BW class) and fitness enthusiast. Before joining Varbanov School of Weightlifting, he trained and competed under his own “coaching” for three years – “a trial-and-error process which made me appreciate the expert coaching I now receive.”, says Vai.  Outside of weightlifting, Vainatey is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Toronto after completing his undergraduate degree in 2009. In his free time, he likes to relax by reading, watching movies and tinkering with and building various gadgets and toys.




Niki is 13 years old, and a son of his father Alex Varbanov. He started lifting weights at a very young age and just an year ago he’s got into competitive weightlifting. Niki is currently a proud holder of  a bunch of provincial records(Clean & Jerk and Total) in the 46kg, 51kg, and 56 kg Juvenile, Youth, Junior bodyweight divisions. Niki is a High Preformance Student in his first year in high school. This little Hercules is working hard on his school assignments, as well as on a challenging weightlifting project – participation in Canadian Junior Championships.





29 year old weightlifter, a strength coach/personal trainer, and has been doing what he loves for about 7 years now. Kyle is the director of program design at Iron Kore Performance Training and owner of Primal Performance. His love for the sport of weightlifting began as a young child when he saw it televised during the various Olympic Summer Games. As he continued to educate himself in the field of strength development he came to the realization that “when it comes to neuro-muscular coordination and complexity it doesn’t get more challenging than the Snatch and the Clean & Jerk. I have been coached by multiple time world champion Alex Varbanov for about a year now and will continue to do so for many years to come! I love Varbanov’s family.” Kyle has set a goal – to become an elite Canadian weightlifter, and he believes that coach Varbanov is his secret weapon in reaching the top Canadian weightlifting stage.


A 25 years old, currently working as a nurse in the Emergency Department of the Hospital for Sick Children. Steph has a background in various  sports including gymnastics, trampoline and volleyball.   She has been weightlifting with Alex for the last year.  “I was first introduced to the concept of olympic lifting about 4 years ago when I started at Crossfit Guelph. When I moved to Toronto, I continued to crossfit, but I wanted as a personal goal to become stronger and improve my technique in the olympic lifts.  That is when I started lifting with Alex.  Within one month of weightlifting I was hooked.  Not only can I lift more then I ever have before, I have also have a new group of people who enjoy getting strong and lifting heavy things over their heads.  Alex and Irina create a great family environment.”




Paluna is a movement enthusiast by nature. As a child she participated in martial arts as well as being part of a swimming team for three years. Always an athlete, she went on to play basketball for 4 consecutive years in high school as well as completing a Bachelor degree in Arts with a specialty in modern dance. She spent the years following graduation as a dancer and aerial performer. In 2005 she moved to Canada and quit performing to pursue a career in the fitness industry.

She is now a certified Personal Trainer with additional training in Yoga, Pilates, Kettlebell and Pre/Post natal among others. Always curious about movement and looking for a challenge, Paluna found weightlifting. She started training with Alex and Irina in March 2012 and hasn’t stopped since.





JennyJenny is a 27 year old Exercise Physiologist and Crossfit Coach, and is currently finishing off her Masters in Fitness Science at York University. Jenny has been involved in athletics for as long as she can remember, playing varsity volleyball and baseball in high school. “I was first introduced to Olympic Lifting when I joined CrossFit almost 3 years ago, and immediately loved it.” Jenny joined the Academy of Lions community as an Intern in April of 2012 and became an official Academy of Lions CrossFIt coach in July of 2012. “I love my new home! Academy is one of the greatest communities I have ever had the opportunity to be a part of. Competition, camaraderie, and great coaching run through all of the programs, including the Varbanov School.” Jenny has been training with the Varbanov School for just over a month and hopes to begin competing in the near future. “Sometimes I can’t believe how lucky I am to train with such amazing teammates and coaches; Alex and Irina are so knowledgeable, friendly, and supportive – they create an amazing environment to lift in!”



Nathane L. Jackson is a leading Canadian health and fitness authority, specializing in holistic living.  An NSCA Strength and Conditioning Coach and currently enrolled inCanadianSchool of Natural Nutrition’s Holistic Nutrition program, he is dedicated to improving all aspects of health and wellness starting at a cellular level. Combining holistic nutrition, functional exercise, and restorative practices such as yoga and meditation, he not only helps clients strengthen their body but also their mind for a more complete and balanced life.

Nathane is a professional fitness model who has regularly appeared on magazine and book covers and in editorial features of leading fitness and health publications. An accomplished feature writer, columnist and blogger, he has shared his expertise on numerous television and radio shows, such as Breakfast Television and W Network’s original series “Stuck.”  He was a three-sport high school athlete in the United States, and Co-Captain of the Windsor Lancers University basketball team.



Leann Leann began her athletic career as a competitive gymnast, but did everything from skiing to soccer, to provincial level track & field while growing up. She ultimately specialized as a swimmer and raced for four years with McGill University’s varsity team, of which she was co-captain. After finally getting bored of staring of the botom of a pool, she returned to her eclectic roots 2 years ago when she discovered CrossFit. Realizing her limitations in the Olympic lifts, she is currently on hiatus from CrossFit to train full time  with the Varbanov’s weightlifting team.

Leann holds a MSc in Brain&Mind Sciences and is currently a graduated student in Clinical Psychology.





Justin has always had an interest in physical fitness and pushing the limits of what he could do. Therefore, when he got started with the Academy Of Lions he knew from day one that it was a perfect fit. Justin started off as an intern through a school program, using his placement to start his first year of Cross Fit training. After some encouragement from his mentor Dhani Oks, along with meeting Alex Varbanov, and some of the lifters in Alex’s program, Justin was 100% sure that Olympic weightlifting was what he needed to further his physical strength to the next level. However, lifting weights has quickly gone from a strength building tool, to a passion beyond anything else. Now a proud member of the Academy Of Lions staff and Varbanov School of Weightlifting, Justin is going to school for physical fitness & healthy living with the hopes of one day being able to teach the tools he is learning from the best in the business


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.