The aetiology of pressure ulcers is poorly understood. The complexity of the problem, involving mechanical, biochemical, and physiological factors demands the need for simpler model systems that can be used to investigate the relative contribution of these factors, while controlling others. Therefore, an in vitro model system of engineered skeletal muscle tissue constructs was developed. With this model system, the relationship between compressive tissue straining and cell damage initiation was investigated under well-defined environmental conditions. Compression of the engineered muscle tissue constructs revealed that cell death occurs within 1–2 h at clinically relevant straining percentages and that higher strains led to earlier damage initiation. In addition, the uniform distribution of dead cells throughout the constructs suggested that sustained deformation of the cells was the principle cause of cell death. Therefore, it is hypothetised that sustained cell deformation is an additional mechanism that plays a role in the development of pressure ulcers.