The heart is the engine of the human body – but what about it's specific function in athletes participating in sport? We have seen that athletes need to get oxygen and nutrients to different parts of their body quickly – this means they need an efficient cardiovascular system, this means having an efficient heart.
What do we mean by an efficient heart? We mean one that pumps a lot of blood with every beat and that can beat quickly for a long period of time. An athlete's heart differs from a non-athlete's because it is trained to become more efficient, that means to pump more blood, more quickly and to do so for longer periods of time.
Every time the heart beats it pushes blood into the arteries carrying oxygen and nutrients to different parts of our bodies. When we exercise or participate in sport, our bodies need more oxygen and more nutrients, and so we need more blood flow. This can only be achieved by pumping harder (i.e. more pump cycles per minute – we call this the heart rate) and is helped if a large amount of blood is pumped with each heartbeat.