- exercise intensity
- novice lifter
- new exercise performed
If you're new to lifting weights, you're more likely to experience DOMS than one whose body has been conditioned to exercise. In addition, if you perform an exercise your body has not experienced, you're more likely to get sore later.
The type of genes (or more precisely, the deficiency of certain genes) within fast-twitch muscle fibers may predispose some people to experience DOMS more so than others. One particular marker of muscle fiber damage is the appearance of an enzyme called creatine kinase. DOMS increases when creatine kinase levels increase.
Some research seems to indicate that women do not experience as much DOMS as men. Why? Perhaps it might have to do with the amount of estrogen hormone present. Estrogen seems to lessen creatine kinase levels after exercise. Less creatine kinase indicates less muscle damage and therefore less DOMS. Because of this, women may have an inherent advantage over men in that they can recover faster.
BOTTOM LINE: It's still not quite clear why DOMS occurs in some people more than others. DOMS can be directly attributed to muscle fiber damage but why some people experience more soreness than others is still a mystery. Most likely it's a combination of factors including exercise experience, exercise intensity, type of exercises performed, genetics, and gender. You can't change your genes nor gender--at least not yet, although advancing biotechnology may make this statement a falsehood. For now, the easiest way to affect the level of DOMS felt is to adjust workout intensity.
Brian Danley, CFT
"Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going."