Pokemon GO: Everything You Need To Know About Gyms, Training And Battling

Pokemon GO: Everything You Need To Know About Gyms, Training And Battling

Although I’m usually not the most competitive gamer, there’s something about Pokemon GO’s gym system that has me hooked. I’ve dominated the gyms in my local area since Wednesday night, and skirmished over gyms in the CBD more times than I can count. Despite constant glitches, fierce rivalries and an abundance of Golbats, I’ve come to learn a lot of the nuances of the battling system: so here they are for you to up your battling game.

Lead Image: Supplied

Getting Started

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To begin with, you need to be at level five to access gyms at all. Once you’re at this level, select a gym in your range of view (you don’t have to be nearby) and go through the prompts to side with one of the three teams. While everyone has an opinion on which team is the best, your choice of team doesn’t impact anything in the game aside from how you relate to other players.

When picking your team, consider how many people will be around to back you up. If you’re planning on playing in a group with your friend, join the same team so you can back each other up at local gyms. Alternatively, if your local area is dominated by one team, consider whether you want to help strengthen the winning side or perhaps back up a team that just needs that little extra push to take some gyms. Ultimately, your choice is up to you, but it will impact your battling going forward.

The Anatomy Of A PokeGO Gym

Chances are if you’re only just getting into battling now, most of the gyms in your area will already be claimed. The colour of the gym represents what team is holding it, and the number of platforms beneath a gym visually depict what level it is (ie how many prestige points and Pokemon it has). Gyms at levels 1-3 have two platforms beneath it, level 4-5 gains another platform and I think the next platform gets added at level 6, though I’m not entirely sure about that one. On the rare chance that you spot an unclaimed gym, it’ll be a simple grey icon.

When you tap a gym to select it, you’ll be shown more in-depth details about that gym. The first trainer/Pokemon that’ll appear is the weakest trainer for that gym, and you can swipe through to the gym leader, the most powerful Pokemon at that gym. An open circle next to the crown in the top left hand corner denotes an empty slot where another Pokemon could be added.

If the gym is a friendly gym, you’ll see a little punching glove icon in the bottom right corner that begins ‘training’ mode. If there is space for another Pokemon at a friendly gym, you’ll see another icon appear in the bottom left corner. If you’re at a rival gym, you’ll see an icon in the bottom right with two Pokeballs clashing — this is how you challenge a gym.

On this screen you’ll also see a little health bar next to the gym’s picture, along with a set of numbers that’ll look a little like “2000/4000”. This is the gym’s prestige points. Think of prestige like health — when the count reaches zero, the team holding it will be kicked out and the gym will be able to be claimed. Once the number of points increases to the number after the slash (in this case, 4000), the gym will go up a level and a slot for another Pokemon will be opened up.

Pokemon are automatically sorted in gyms from lowest to highest CP, and the trainer of the highest CP Pokemon will be the gym leader, with their Pokemon visible at the gym on the map.

Attacking A Rival’s Gym

If you want to own a gym, you’ll probably have to claim one first. If you have a choice of multiple gyms, pick one with the lowest prestige. Gyms with high prestige often have people around them, actively raising their gym’s points in case rival teams try to take it down.

You’ll need to be within range of a gym to challenge it. Simply press the challenge button and pick a team of 6 Pokemon to fight with you. You will fight each Pokemon in the gym’s roster one after the next, so try and order your six Pokemon so that type advantages are in your favour. Check out PokemonDB for a handy chart of type advantages if you need a refresher.


Image: Supplied

To start out with, battles in Pokemon GO are not turn-based, so get ready to battle the moment the giant ‘GO’ disappears from your screen. Unfortunately, due to server issues, this could be anywhere from one second to ten seconds. Stay vigilant.

Once the battle starts, you want to mash for your life. You have three different moves in PokeGO battles: tap to standard attack, tap and hold to special attack, and swipe to dodge. Personally, I’ve never used dodge, as it feels too laggy to be worth anything. Maybe it’s just my poor form, but I’ve found it ineffective thus far.

Out of the other two moves, you’ll have to practice with your different Pokemon to get your strategy down. Pay attention to whether your special attack move is a different type to your standard attack, and always take note of type advantages. Special attack moves are much slower, so they’re only worth using if they’re especially powerful or have a type advantage.

Some standard moves, such as water gun, are incredibly fast, and should be spammed over and over without wasting time on special moves. On the other hand, Pokemon such as Electrode with a powerful move like Discharge should prioritise special moves over standard. Other powerful special attacks I’ve used include Flame Wheel and Flash Cannon — but each Pokemon is different so you should always make sure to find out what works for you.

Keep spamming attacks until either you or the other team are knocked out. If a Pokemon (on either side) faints, it’ll be automatically replaced with the next Pokemon in the roster. Fainted Pokemon that you own will have to be revived after the battle, and all damage has to be healed with a potion of some sort. Note that the only way to heal or revive Pokemon is with items you pick up at Pokestops — you can’t buy healing items in the store, and nor can you heal them any other way.

If you manage to defeat all the Pokemon in a gym, you’ll knock 2000 points off its prestige, and if it had less than 2000 points to begin with then you will be able to claim the gym. Unless…

That Damn 1HP Glitch

You may encounter a glitch when battling gyms, where the opposing Pokemon will drop to 1HP but won’t die. You may also be taken straight back to the Pokemon roster at the start of the battle, leaving you unable to actually fight for the gym. This glitch is annoying as hell, and unfortunately there’s very little you can do about it, as it’s related to the ongoing server issues.

If you get the glitch, give the gym at least one other go (luckily a glitched battle won’t leave your Pokemon low on health) and if it continues, go look for another gym to challenge. Unfortunately, until the issues are fixed by Niantic, there’s little we can do about it.

Defending Your Gym

If you come across a gym that’s already owned by your team, don’t just walk past it — you can do your bit to help. Instead of battling, accessing your own gym gives you the option of ‘training’. In training mode, you will pit one Pokemon against the gym’s entire roster. Luckily, you don’t have to beat all the Pokemon to raise the gym’s prestige points, but you will get more points depending on how many Pokemon you manage to knock out.

You will get 500+ prestige points for every Pokemon you manage to beat with a Pokemon of a lower level, with significantly decreasing returns the higher your Pokemon’s level is. The best way to quickly level up your gym is to pick a Pokemon that’s a lower level than the gym’s first defender, but with a type advantage. You should be able to beat the first Pokemon fairly easily. Run from the battle, collect your 500 points, heal up your battler and do it all over again. (Thanks to Bondles for the tip!)

If someone is actively attacking your gym (you’ll see the battle happening on the map icon) you can train over and over to keep the gym ‘fortified’ against any potential attackers. If you’re actively defending, it’s a good idea to have a couple of people on your team doing it along with you.

Leaving A Defender

Image: Supplied

When you manage to raise the gym’s level, or if your team’s gym already has a spare slot, you can leave a Pokemon in the gym to help defend it (though each trainer can only assign one Pokemon per gym). Have a good think about what Pokemon you leave — if it’s an uncontested gym in the suburbs, chances are you won’t get that Pokemon back for a while, whereas fought-over gyms will probably return your Pokemon within hours.

Note that your Pokemon’s nicknames are visible to you only — so unfortunately your cleverly named ‘Farty McFartface’ will only show up to other users as ‘Koffing’.

Gym defenders will automatically use a mix of standard and special attacks, so it’s a good idea to leave Pokemon with strong Specials that potentially aren’t as fast as your screen-mashing attack Pokemon, as mentioned above.

Also think about the type balance of your gym — the more types of Pokemon are in your gym, the more defensible it will be. Consider ordering Pokemon so that a challenger with a type advantage against the first Pokemon in the roster will have a disadvantage against the second defender. If you only have high level Pokemon in a certain type, consider whether you really need to leave a Pokemon there at all…

Gym Etiquette

While there’s obviously nothing set in the way of Pokemon GO etiquette at this point, a few things should be common sense. When you’re leaving a Pokemon at your team’s gym, your action could either help or hinder. If you’re considering leaving a Pokemon that would be the lowest CP Pokemon at that gym, you’re probably not going to be helping much.

Similarly, if you’re considering leaving another Golbat in a gym full of Golbats just because it’s your highest CP Pokemon and you want to be the gym leader, perhaps reconsider and contribute a Pokemon that will actually help your team hold the gym (even if it ends up sitting second or third in the roster).

Catching Strong Pokemon

Image: Supplied

There’s no point in battling gyms if you don’t have a handful of strong Pokemon to back you up. You won’t keep any gyms for long if you rely on a single strong Pokemon — you need a number of strong Pokemon to both attack rivals and defend your gyms if you want any chance of success at this facet of the game.

Read More: Here Are Some Tips For Playing Pokemon GO

To begin with, types are important. One of the strongest Pokemon types you can have in a lot of areas at the moment is electric. Why? Well, you may have noticed an abundance of Golbats and Pidgeots at almost every gym, and this is for the express reason that these two Pokemon are the easiest to get to a high level. Both these Pokemon are also flying type — which have a weakness to electric. If you live around one of Australia’s coastal areas, chances are there are also a lot of water types. Again, their weakness is electric — see where I’m going with this? While it might change in the future as people evolve more types of Pokemon to higher levels, electric Pokemon are some of the strongest types to battle with right now.

The level of the Pokemon you catch increases with your player level — at the time of writing, at level 19, I tend to encounter Pokemon between level 200 and 600, with a few outliers on each side. Pokemon without a further evolution to go are usually caught at a much higher level (common examples of this include Pincer and Golduck) while those with one evolution are lower, and those with two evolutions even lower again. The reason for this is because Pokemon get a huuuge boost in CP when they evolve.

Upgrade Or Evolve?

I’ll tell you a secret. I don’t upgrade my Pokemon anymore, aside from a select few occasions — usually fully evolved or unevolvable Pokemon also at a very high CP (relative to my other Pokemon). The reason for this is as you move up levels, the Pokemon you catch have higher and higher CP. It’s much more effective to simply catch strong Pokemon than it is to try and upgrade low CP ones.

If your Pokemon has another evolution or two to go, save all your candy for that. Pokemon can double or triple their CP when evolved — though evolutions requiring 50 candy will power up your Pokemon much more than those that require 25 or 12. Magikarps can even go from CP 60 to around 700! In this one thing, Team Mystic are right — strengthen your Pokemon through evolution!

Hatching Pokemon

Eggs are one of the most valuable sources of Pokemon in this game. Eggs will hatch often rare Pokemon, though guaranteed they will always come with a heap of valuable candy. If you hatch an uncommon Pokemon without an evolution like Snorlax or Lapras, they will also get more points with each upgrade than a regular caught Pokemon would.

While the general rule is that 2km eggs hatch common Pokemon, 5km eggs hatch uncommon Pokemon and 10km eggs hatch rare ones, it’s worth hatching all the different kinds of eggs. 2km eggs can hatch Weedles, but they can also hatch any of the starters (Bulbasaur, Charmander, Squirtle) including Pikachu. Find a a list of what hatches from different types of eggs here.

Why Claim Gyms At All?

When it comes down to it, gyms may not be for you at all. There’s only one tangible in-game reward for having your Pokemon in gyms. This is the ‘Defender Bonus’, an allocation of Stardust and Pokecoins that can be accessed from the Shop page every 20 hours. You get 10 coins and 500 dust for every Pokemon you have in a gym, with a maximum of 10 Pokemon you can claim for.

For most people, however, it’s the competitive aspect of gyms that’ll be most attractive. Whether you love the feeling of working in a team, or just having your name and Pokemon up for all to see, take these tips, overthrow all the other teams and become the one true Battle Girl!

Image: Supplied

I’m getting there (slowly).


  • I’m concurrently playing Witcher 3, Dark Souls, Persona 4, and a bloody Monster Hunter game. This stuff is probably as obtuse as those games’ mechanics.

    I’m not saying it’s needlessly complicated or should be streamlined, I just wonder how much I need to learn before some or many of these rules and strategies are altered by the game updating. At least with other games there are patch notes and a game’s nascent community are the ones at the coal face to pick apart what’s better or worse (Dark Souls is a good example, the poison lake area in every damn game always get changed some how).

    • It really isn’t that complex, it is all about how deep you want to get into the mechanics.
      Hell my 2 year old caught her first pokemon unassisted last night.
      As for what you need to learn before you start there is very little. Walk around, click on pokemon when they appear, throw pokeball at them. That is the first part and some people have fun without any of that.
      Gyms are the more competitive mode so need a little more understanding.

      • Which, lets have it right, you can work it out yourself!

        I did thatn on weekend, went for a stroll on Sunday night to the local gym and got smashed, had the HP glitch multiple times, revived pokemon, had another crack at the gym and just resigned to catching mor on the way home

        Last night, I was able to take over the whole gym!!! And within a few minutes of me taking over, some trainer with a pokemon at 1200 CP had already overtaken me as leader!!! Go Valor!!!

        I’ll be holding that gym as a valor gym – Dont you bother coming my way!

    • Considering their priority is just getting the servers to stop catching fire every few days before they release the game worldwide, I think you’ve got plenty of time to learn the game. They aren’t going to be altering mechanics any time soon.

    • Pokemon isn’t like that. Yes, battle modes have changed, but the basics remain the same. Type balancing has a rock- paper- scissors balance, there doesn’t appear to be a STAB boost though, and instead of 4 moves you get 2. The last difference is the real time dodge and attack mechanics. However the only thing that really needs adjusting is the branching evolutions

    • jesus christ you’re right with the dark souls comparison. like take a look at this spreadsheet (https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1PiBGv76OpeaW95r-5x3xbK5suWFDSXE5Zweq9j7kKhs/htmlview?usp=sharing&sle=true) and tell me this game isn’t a min/maxer’s dream/nightmare with the depth of hidden stats and lack of ability to actually customize anything to change them. sooner or later we’ll figure out pokemon go’s equivalent of poise and just start wrecking the unfortunate masses dump all their SLs into resistance. (came all the way from america and registered an account to say this, so you know i’m serious.)

      • I’m flattered!

        I’m not sure what I’m looking at though, but I’d like to learn more. I have a Vaporeon with a CP of 629, so I’m not sure if the way I’m reading it its ‘total’ is higher than what’s listed there. CPs can go much higher, that much I know.

        Where’s the original place this was posted?

        • so my impression is that the “total” column is referring to a sum of stamina/attack/defense values. the highlighted green lines in column T give a bit of an idea of what the person who created the chart is valuing in doing some of the other calculations (e.g. “offense” and “defense”), but for me the most important calculations were the power per minute stats in the MoveData tab—like it became painfully clear to me with a high-level Pinsir (for instance) that CP really only goes so far in determining how good your attacks are, even without taking type advantage into account. the game doesn’t tell you how fast the moves are, in particular, which makes a huge difference in (the admittedly pretty mind-numbing and badly designed) battles. i found it on reddit somewhere, not sure which thread. (looks like it and other tables like it are all over the place, e.g., https://www.reddit.com/r/pokemongo/comments/4tbl1y/psa_pokemon_cp_isnt_enough_these_are_the/)

  • I just got to lvl 5 and captured an eevee with 122CP. I then checked my closest gym to find a Garydos with 1858CP. Holy fucking shit these fuckers must have put in the hours for that already.

    My point is most of this shit now doesnt mean a thing to me already. Gonna try to catch em all but fucked if I will ever bother with gyms and the like. Unless some sort of tier is brought in so these sad fucks are all grouped giving the casuals just looking for a little fun at least some semblance of hope to achieve something

    • It’s set up so the casuals can go help their team and reinforce gyms already controlled by their own team. It’s a team game in the gyms, not individuals all out on their own.

      10 trainers can put 1 pokemon each in a gym…not all 10 have to have crazy CP levels.

  • I want to correct your information about gym levels:
    The gyms level refers to how many platforms the gym contains that can hold a Pokemon. Pretty sure gyms start at level two even if it only has one defender, as it has a second platform for another Pokemon to be added.
    EDIT: Gyms do start at level 1. I guess when I took over a gym I gained enough XP to level it to 2 outright… :/

      • Ah, thanks for that. I only thought they started at 2 because when I took over my first gym yesterday it was level 2 with just my Pokemon…

        • Same here but i think thats just because you beat him but didnt take enough prestige points off the gym to bring it back to lvl 2??? Someone else may be able to clarify but i think thats how it worked when i got my first gym beat

    • Gyms start at level 2. The ‘platforms’ I’m referring to are purely the physical look of the gyms. The level of a gym is the same as the number of Pokemon it can host 🙂

  • hahaha that HP glitch – i thought i was the only one. Just close and re open a couple of times it seems to work again

    • There’s a gym not far from my house and I have tried at least 20 times to fight it over several days, with 90% of those attempts ending in either the 1hp glitch or the kick back to the gym menu. My party can easily crush it, it just bugs out which is annoying as heck

      • I know your frustration. The only advice I can give is to try gyms at midday. Seems to be when the servers are most stable, as the majority of US players are asleep. Has been the only time I’ve been able to get gyms to act reliable.

        • Mine worked well last night at around 9pm whereas the night before i had the hp glitch multiple times but was able to eventually get it to work.

  • The battle mechanics are so terrible that I don’t even bother.
    Catching, hatching and evolving is kind of fun, but until they fix the horrible battles/gym, there’s just no point.

    whoever thought a simplified tap and swipe combat system on a cellular network with what appears to be server side checking was a good idea should be fired.
    Why they didn’t just do the standard pokemon turn based fighting is beyond me.

    • Yep. Buggy, not and not all that fun even when it does work. It’s just not Pokemon.

  • When you’re training to increase the prestige of your own team’s gyms, you get 500 prestige for beating a pokemon if your pokemon has the same CP. If your pokemon is weaker, you get a bit more prestige, and the prestige bonus reduces *fast* if your pokemon is stronger than the gym’s pokemon.

    So the best way to prestige up a gym is to fight the first pokemon with something that has slightly lower CP but type advantage, flee from the second pokemon and repeat.

  • That 1 HP glitch was also there during the beta and reported in the bug tracker. It’s a bit disappointing that they didn’t fix it.

    It seems some of the players around me have had a lot more time to play the game since the public launch, so all the near by gyms are stocked with pokemon at much higher levels than me. Given that you get nothing for failing in a battle, I guess I’ll stay away from them for now. I don’t even get anything for training at a friendly gym if its pokemon are at too high a level.

    I guess it is a good thing I enjoy the other parts of the game …

    • i recently started a day ago… on the 11 of july and now am lvl 12 almost 13 , dont give up just do it!

  • The ultimate tip for you fatties and 311 fans: Change your location accuracy to Battery Saver while you’re at home/office to let your avatar walk around in a circle and hatch those eggs quicker.

  • Do Stats matter in this battle system?
    Let’s take Pikachu as an overused example. The electric type would give it a nice advantage, but with its usually pretty crappy stats, that wouldn’t be much help.

    • Stats totally matter. CP will dominate the results, but type advantage can help a bit (and as per my post above, you’ll get better Prestige rewards for winning battles with type advantage than raw CP).

      So far, it’s unclear what height and weight do, but people suspect they make some attacks like tackle more powerful.

        • No, it’s even more simplified.

          Your damage dealt is the numbers next to ordinary and special attacks, CP weighting is largely affected by HP

          • Oh, that’s good to know! Finally got it today. I’m so exited! Thanks a lot!!

  • Why wouldnt you evolve your pokemon?
    Thats just silly.
    Caterpie/Weedle only require 12 candy to evolve and they give you 500exp.

    The higher level the better the pokemon(CP) and spawn rates for other pokemon are.

    • They only require 12 candy to evolve, but they evolve into Metapods and Kakunas that are basically useless in battle. You really want to be evolving them again to use. But in the time it takes you to collect 50 candy for the second evolution, you’ll have caught *much* stronger Caterpies and Weedles to start the evolution chain and the Metapod/Kakuna you evolved early will be underpowered. So better to wait until you have 62 and evolve all at once.

  • If you get the glitch, give the gym at least one other go (luckily a glitched battle won’t leave your Pokemon low on health) and if it continues, go look for another gym to challenge. Unfortunately, until the issues are fixed by Niantic, there’s little we can do about it.

    Not my experience at all. I have to force quit to exit these battles, and while gaining no experience my pokemon are still injured or have feinted.

  • What happens to the pokemon you put to defend in the gym if it gets lost? Will it just disappear or it will come back at your inventory fainted/dead? Thanks for answering 🙂

    • They get returned to your inventory as i found out tonight. A fair bit worse for ware but they do come back. That 10 mins i held the gym for was SO worth it.

  • So, just to clarify — If you’re the leader of the gym & it gets overtaken by, say, another team, how would you know? Would you get notified?

    • they will not notify but you can tell if your gym was down or your pokemon has been kicked out(if youre not the gym leader) by going to your pokemon storage. If your pokemon dont have a gym badge anymore that means they`re already kicked out

  • Yea I’m wondering the same thing. How do I know if I lost control of the gym? I see my hypno in my deck, but he’s at full health. Does this mean he stills leads that gym?

    • In the shop page, you can see how many gyms you’re holding in the shield in the upper right hand side of the screen. In your list of Pokemon, ones defending gyms will have a little icon next to them.

      • and the easiest way is to look if your pokemon still have the gym badge, if not, then it is already kicked out of the gym

  • Ive been looking everywhere and i cant figure out how to upgrade gyms? Or if they just do it on there own

  • Why did my bellsprout lose CP when he was kicked out of a gym, and yet his HP was still at 100%?

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