From the first it was clear that Casey Bunce had a story to tell. The question: “What do I need to know about you before we do this interview?” His answer: “I’m very determined, and I love my family.”
Determination is the word, all right. Though he’s earned two first-place finishes at Seattle’s prestigious NPC Emerald Cup, the 33-year-old, 245-pounds-in-contest-shape gym owner from Corona, California, has taken the long road in his bodybuilding career—and, as his bio would suggest, in life. That he’s triumphed this far shows just how determined the 6’ superheavyweight is.
“I was in recovery for over a year, first with a wheelchair, then a walker and crutches. My leg was severely atrophied.”
Raised in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley—not so far as the crow flies from the Riverside County town of Corona but a million miles in lifetime experience—Bunce spent his high school years in Las Vegas and in Lake Havasu, Arizona. He majored in kinesiology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and eventually moved to Washington state before coming to Corona, where he opened Construction Zone Fitness this year. Along the way he held numerous jobs—account executive at a mortgage bank and regional sales manager for electrical equipment, to name a couple—before making his way back to what he really wanted to do.
Casey’s contest résumé is short but impressive: In 2003 he took third in the heavyweights at the Gold’s Gym Classic and in ’04 was heavyweight champ at the Emerald Cup. Four years later, at the ’08 Las Vegas Classic, he earned another top trophy in the heavies, and after placing well at the California Championships in 2011, he moved up to superheavyweight, scoring another class win at Emerald Cup in 2013.
That four-year gap is the key to Bunce’s story, at least the part that features his true grit in the gym and on the contest platform.
RS: Did you have a sports background?
CB: I played baseball and football, starting from the age of eight. I have always loved being competitive.
RS: When did you start working out?
CB: In high school, when I starting playing football, but the football program didn’t make you lift weights, and I started to lift at home with my dad. He was very big into it and had all the necessary equipment in the garage. My dad was a very strong and large man, so I always wanted to be like him!
RS: When did you start competing?
CB: After playing some college football, I joined a gym in Kirkland, Washington, and started working out more, focusing on more detailed workouts vs. the strength and power movements I was used to doing in the football program. I became workout partners with a former Marine named Gary Hardin who competed in bodybuilding. After a few weeks he told me that I would make a good bodybuilder. I said, “Okay, what the heck? Let’s give it a try.” Gary guided me slightly, and with my science and nutrition knowledge from school I did a diet and preparation plan and was on my way to my first bodybuilding show [the ’03 Gold’s Classic].
RS: You were out of commission for several years. What happened?
CB: In 2005 I was prepping for the USAs. I’d just come off my win at the Emerald Cup and was feeling good about doing very well. I was at a birthday party and had an unfortunate incident with some bad people who showed up. They beat me up severely, kicking in my knee—and all over jealousy. It just goes to show that you have to pick the people you are going to have in your life very wisely. I had to undergo a major surgery and have my knee rebuilt with donor ligaments.
RS: How long before you could train legs again?
CB: I was in recovery for over a year, first with a wheelchair, then a walker and crutches, and, finally, toward the middle of the second year, I was able to work out that leg with light weights and get back into the gym on a normal schedule. My leg was so severely atrophied that it took another year and a half to get it close to the same size as the other leg; to this day it is still smaller, and if I do not train it regularly, it starts to atrophy. In April 2012 I had to have another surgery to help repair some of the left-over damaged cartilage.
RS: How did it feel to get back onstage?
CB: It was amazing! I am not going to lie—it was bittersweet. I was so happy to be doing what I loved again and that I came right back with a win, but at the same time I felt that if it had not been for that injury, I would be farther along with my bodybuilding career—who knows maybe even a pro—rather than feeling like I was starting over. That has passed now, and I just feel blessed that I can have the chance to get back onstage and be doing what I am passionate about.
RS: What are your competition goals now? Pro card?
CB: I would love to try for a pro card. Right now I am just taking it slowly, one show at a time. I may do the ’14 USA, but I am thinking of competing in December at the NPC Excalibur in Culver City, California, so I can get more comfortable being onstage as a superheavyweight. I know I need to work on my hamstrings and back width.
RS: How would you describe your training style?
CB: I really wouldn’t call the way I train a style. I just try to constantly mix it up. I believe that the muscle responds well to a new stimulus, so I try to add different movements and weight and rep ranges every week and keep it different than the previous week. That way I feel I can maximize my gains, keep my workouts short and still yield good results.
[For more on his training, see the sidebar on page 88.]
RS: How about your diet? How do you approach eating for mass gaining? For contest prep?
CB: My diet doesn’t change too much during my bulking periods because I try to stay fairly lean during the off-season. I just eat a few more higher-glycemic carbohydrates. Then I switch those to low-glycemic carbs when I cut down for the show. My body responds to certain foods very well, so I don’t change things much. That way I don’t get any surprises. My approach is very basic—I try to eat a well-balanced diet and add a few supplements to aid in nutrition. I do try to have one or two cheat meals a week to keep myself and my family sane. [Laughs]
RS: You mentioned how important your family is.
CB: Yes, I love my family! I am married to a wonderful woman named Yvonne; she is the reason I have become a better man. We have five kids. I have a beautiful stepdaughter, Amanda, who is 24-years old. I have a son, Dru, who is 16; I have a stepson, Nick, who is 15; and then my two youngest—twin boys, Jonathan and Jacob—are 14.
RS: Talk about your gym, Construction Zone Fitness.
CB: I have always been a personal trainer. Even when I had different jobs in different industries, I always seemed to be training people for extra money, and I loved it. When I moved back to California, I started building up my clientele, and then when the opportunity came, I jumped on it and bought the gym I was training people at. I wanted to make the gym bigger and busier, so I called some friends in Issaquah, Washington, Pete and Apple Grubbs, who own Construction Zone Fitness. We put our heads together and came up with an agreement. Now we have a Southern California location in Corona.
We are a fitness-oriented, family friendly facility. We do mostly weight loss and group fitness, and of course we do contest prep, nutrition coaching and education. We also work with [pro fitness star] Tanji Johnson at Save Fitness. Tanji and her coaches help a lot of our competitors with their posing, and they also do seminars.
RS: How do you juggle the activities and pressures of being a business owner, family man and competitive bodybuilder?
CB: It is very tough—that is for sure! I guess I just try to stay organized, focused and, most important, patient. Sometimes things get hectic, and that is just how life is. So if I can just try to be patient, things tend to work themselves out. If I let the stress get to me, it will effect all aspects—my family, my business, even my gains in the gym—so I try to pick my battles and not let too much of the little stuff get to me.
Editor’s note: To contact Casey Bunce, write to [email protected] IM