Human cognition and action can be influenced by internal bodily processes such as heartbeats. For instance, somatosensory perception is impaired both during the systolic phase of the cardiac cycle and when heartbeats evoke stronger cortical responses. Here, we test whether these cardiac effects originate from overall changes in cortical excitability. Cortical and corticospinal excitability were assessed using electroencephalographic and electromyographic responses to transcranial magnetic stimulation while concurrently monitoring cardiac activity with electrocardiography. Cortical and corticospinal excitability were found to be highest during systole and following stronger cortical responses to heartbeats. Furthermore, in a motor task, hand-muscle activity and the associated desynchronization of sensorimotor oscillations were stronger during systole. These results suggest that systolic cardiac signals have a facilitatory effect on motor excitability – in contrast to sensory attenuation that was previously reported for somatosensory perception. Thus, distinct time windows may exist across the cardiac cycle that either optimize perception or action.