Swim-up is a sperm purification method that is being used daily in andrology labs around the world as a simple step for in vitro sperm selection. This method accumulates the most motile sperm in the upper fraction and leaves sperm with low or no motility in the lower fraction. However, the underlying reasons are not fully understood. In this article, we compare metabolic rate, motility and sperm tail length of bovine sperm cells of the upper and lower fraction. The metabolic assay platform reveals oxygen consumption rates and extracellular acidification rates simultaneously and thereby delivers the metabolic rates in real time. Our study confirms that the upper fraction of bull sperm has not only improved motility compared to the cells in the lower fraction but also shows higher metabolic rates and longer flagella. This pattern was consistent across media of two different levels of viscosity. We conclude that the motility-based separation of the swim-up technique is also reflected in underlying metabolic differences. Metabolic assays could serve as additional or alternative, label-free method to evaluate sperm quality.