strain at (something)

strain at (something)

To exert the utmost force against some kind of resistance or barrier. The bank president complained that they had been straining at the restrictive regulations, but consumer advocates pointed out that it had led to a massive nationwide reduction in personal debt. The startled cattle strained at the gates until they eventually burst through and began stampeding through the farm.
See also: strain

strain at

v.
To pull or push on something, trying to make it yield or give way: The dog barked viciously and strained at its leash. The angry crowd strained at the barriers.
See also: strain