Herein we explore the unique potential of pillared-layered metal–organic frameworks of the DMOF-1 family for mechanical energy storage applications. In this work, we theoretically predict for the guest-free DMOF-1 a new contracted phase by exerting an external mechanical pressure of more than 200 MPa with respect to the stable phase at atmospheric pressure. The breathing transition is accompanied by a very large volume contraction of about 40%. The high transition pressures and associated volume changes make these materials highly promising with an outstanding mechanical energy work. Furthermore, we show that changing the nature of the metal allows to tune the behavior under mechanical pressure. The various phases were revealed by a combination of periodic density-functional theory calculations, force field molecular dynamics simulations and mercury intrusion experiments for DMOF-1(Zn) and DMOF-1(Cu). The combined experimental and theoretical approach allowed to discover the potential of these materials for new technological developments.